The history of introduction into India of the new world cottons dates back to the 18th century AD. By the last decade of the 20th century, India had gained a pride of place in the global cotton statistics with the largest cropped area of 8.9 million hectares in 1996-97, growing the most diverse cultivars in terms of botanical species and composition, producing the widest range of cotton fibre and supporting the largest agro-based national industry of the country.
In the late 18th and 19th century, the fortunes of Indian cotton seem to have been linked with the adequacy or otherwise of cotton exports to England from America. In an attempt to develop an alternative source of supply (apart from America), the East India Company initiated trials with exotic cottons (new world cotton varieties) introduced into India.
The first attempt was made in 1790 AD to grow Bourbon (G. hirsutumrace punctatum) variety introduced from Malta and Mauritius in the Bombay and Madras Provinces. The initial trials proved unsatisfactory. In 1840 AD, trials with exotic American cotton were carried out in Gujarat, the Deccan, and the Konkan. New Orleans seed (G. hirsutumracelarifolium) was grown in 1842 AD in Hubi taluk of Karnataka and by 1861-62 was grown on 72313 ha.
After the reorganization of the Madras Department of Agriculture in 1905, American, Peruvian, Egyptian, and Sea Island varieties were experimented with, but without success. The most significant development for the future success and spread of American cotton in India was the introduction of a cotton variety originally found suitable in Indo-China
Since launch of “Technology Mission on Cotton” by Government of India in February 2000 significant achievements have been made in increasing yield and production through development of high yielding varieties, appropriate transfer of technology, better farm management practices etc. All these developments have resulted into a turnaround in cotton production in the country since last few years. The yield per hectare jumped to 472 kgs in the year 2005-06 and has now reached the level of 504 kgs to 566 kgs per hectare.
Cotton – Area, Production and Yield
Use of Bt. Cotton Hybrid Seeds
Bt Cotton is the only transgenic crop approved in the country for commercial cultivation. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is the nodal agency for grant of permission for environmental release of Bt. Cotton hybrids under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 in the country.
At present, about 1128 Bt. Cotton hybrid seeds are available for cultivation in the country. These Bt. Cotton hybrids are grown in ten (10) States i.e., Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. The area under Bt. Cotton has increased from 29073 ha in Kharif 2002 to 85.29 lakh ha. In 2016-17 (81% of total cotton area).