India's Central Zone: Great Gains, Greater Potential
The additional production of 11 million bales of cotton would provide $4.8 billion annually.
March 23, 2011
The central zone, which consists of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, is India’s largest cotton-growing tract and generates about 65% of the country’s total cotton production. Black soils predominate in this zone, which is perfect for Hirstum, Arboreum and Herbeceum cottons. Even though only about 22% of the cotton planted in the central zone is irrigated, the ideal temperatures and ample sunshine that the region enjoys during the growth and maturity periods – as well as the extended, moderately cool, dry weather that prevails from October to February – are favorable for obtaining higher yields.
This region is the leading producer of the country’s long and superior long staple cotton. In fact, it was here that hybrids H-4 and H-6 were developed and cultivation of hybrid cotton was introduced on a commercial scale. Presently, this region is the largest Bt-seed cotton growing belt in the country, with more than 90% area under Bt.
However, if we are going to give three cheers to the central zone, we should give at least two-and-a-half cheers to Bt seed.
In 2003/04, with the introduction of BT seed, production in the central zone exceeded 10 million bales for the first time in its history. Yield also surged to 342 kg of lint per hectare, a huge gain over the 200 kg of lint per hectare achieved in 2000/01. After Bt cotton went into use, the central zone saw increases in cotton area, production and productivity. In the last seven years, the central zone has recorded a 45% jump in cotton area, a production increase to 19.5 million bales (170 kg each), and a yield of 520 kg lint per hectare (2007/08).
In the central zone, there farmers who regularly obtain yield levels as high as 1,200 kg of lint per hectare. On the other hand, there are farmers whose yield is as low as 150 kg of lint per hectare. As a result, there is a big difference in the actual yields and obtainable yields in this zone. Bridging, or at least narrowing, the yield gap across all cotton growers within the central zone by using both current levels of technology and proven agronomic practices would increase production a lot more.
This Is No Time to Relax
In the current cotton year (2010/11), the central zone should produce more than 21.3 million bales of cotton with a yield of about 500 kg per hectare. While central India has reasons to take pride in its achievements, when compared with big countries like China or small ones like Israel, it is easy to see that central India has miles to go on the cotton front.
It is quite interesting that the cotton area in the central zone is even bigger than that of China, the top producer of cotton in the world. But it is a matter of shame that countries like China are harvesting 6.65 million tons (nearly double that of the central zone) from an area of 5.2 million hectares, with yields of 1,300 kg per hectare. The United States, whose planting area is only about 60% of the central zone’s, has been harvesting 110% more cotton than this region of India.
The central zone’s biggest capital is its area under the cotton crop, and its cotton reserve fund is the large gap between the present and the potential yield level. If it is able fully exploit its potential with cotton, the central zone alone could produce more than 32.7 million bales from an area of 7.3 million hectares, with a very realistic yield level of 765 kg per hectare – the same as the rest of the world.
Additional production of more than 11 million bales would benefit the region by the staggering amount of $4.8 billion annually.
With such precious assets, backed by an extensive network of research and development centers, and the synergistic efforts of the united public and private sectors, central India is bound to emerge as a cotton powerhouse within the country, if not in the world. It is only a matter of time before central India starts to reach its fullest potential.