Transgenic Cotton Counters Leaf Curl Virus in Pakistan
After several years of severe cotton damage from the virus, researchers appear to have found a way to counter the disease.
July 15, 2010
After several years of severe damage to Pakistan’s cotton industry at the hands of cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV), researchers appear to have found a way to counter the disease. By introducing a synthetic gene into cotton plants, scientists believe they can block viral multiplication in the Burewala strain of CLCV, as well as control the disease’s future mutations.
That is welcome news to Pakistani cotton farmers, who are believed to have lost as much as 10% of last year’s crop to CLCV alone. The disease is expected to hit growers in the Punjab region especially hard this year, reducing the size of the crop by nearly 20% and adversely affecting the quality of the cotton that can be produced.
The research is being conducted jointly by Punjab University’s School of Biological Sciences and Canada’s Toronto University, thanks to funding from the Punjab Agriculture Research Board. They hope to develop a CLCV-resistant cotton variety within the next few years. Cotton farmers aren’t the only ones eagerly awaiting a solution; once the disease is effectively countered, it will also benefit local textile companies by providing them with easier access to raw materials.
Pakistan’s Federal Committee on Agriculture estimates that the nation’s cotton production will top 14 million bales this year, and the 2.5 million-hectare Punjab region is expected to produce more than 70% of that total. The cotton crop and related industries account for about a quarter of the economy in Pakistan, which is the world’s fourth-largest cotton producer and its third-largest user.