Double breakthrough in cotton research

Two developments on the campus of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur, could potentially revolutionise cotton production in the country - a soon-to-come variety with the weightiest boll in the world, and a germplasm (genetic resource) for a possible variety or hybrid with the strongest fibre.

The big boll was accidentally developed by head of crop improvement P K Chakrabarty. The strong-fibre achievement by principal scientist Vinita Gotmare was the result of a sustained effort in that direction.

"Chakrabarty's boll weighs 7.9 gm, which is probably the highest the world has ever known. Gotmare's fibre's strength is 29 grams/tex, which is the highest in India and surely one of the highest in the world," CICR director Keshav Kranthi told The Indian Express.

The maximum boll weight anywhere in the world, according to Kranthi, hasn't exceeded 6 gm and the top fibre strength in India is 25 g/tex and around the same in most parts of the world.

Chakrabarty is two seasons away from his new variety with the big boll. Gotmare's tough-fibre germplasm, too, will be available in around the same time for strengthening existing varieties or hybrids. A high-strength fibre is crucial to high-speed spinning.

"I was working on development of a variety resistant to disease bacterial blight by crossing two American varieties when I stumbled upon this big boll," Chakrabarty said."Though enough disease-resistance capacity couldn't be developed to tackle the Indian race of the bacteria causing the disease, big boll turned out to be a surprise outcome." He credited his senior technical assistant G R Kene with making vital contributions to the experiment.

And Gotmare said, "I was doing conventional breeding by selection process (choosing specimens with the strongest fibre and then multiplying it by mutual crossing) by using wild varieties. Four generations later, we have got this fibre with 29g/tex strength. The best in India till date is the Suraj variety developed by CICR with 25 g/text. But we will have to wait for two more generations to be able to claim it finally, although, at this stage, the strength is unlikely to diminish."

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