By Abdallah el-Kurebe
A new variety of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) Cotton, which underwent trial in northern Ghana has proved successive, Dr. Emmanuel Chamba, a scientist at the Yam and Cotton Breeding Programme of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), has confirmed.
The trial of the Bt cotton, which was carried out in the three northern regions of the country was done by growing a non-Bt cotton along side the Bt cotton. “What we did was that we had a quarter hectare Bt cotton and a quarter hectare non-Bt cotton lying side by side. We did that in six locations in the three northern regions,” he said.
Chamba in an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra about the confined field trials of the crop in the country, said that although the results were positive necessary procedures would be carried out in order to get the Bt cotton seeds commercialised.
“The farmers are eager for the seeds to plant because of the high yields and the cost-effectiveness involved, but ours is to do the investigations and present the findings to the National Biosafety Authority for advice on the way forward,” he said.
It has been reported that some farmers from the three northern regions have sidestepped the regulatory system by planting Bt cotton seeds, which they brought from Burkina Faso. The seeds, the report further reveals were recording positive yields in spite of the trials that are being undertaken to ensure that all the safety precautions were undertaken to avoid any negative impact on the environment.
Farmers that are already involved in planting the Bt cotton posit that in view of the fact that Ghana and Burkina Faso share the same climate conditions, the need to drag the process did not arise. They therefore “call for the processes to be fast-tracked to have the seeds released before the end of the year.”
Chamba also confirmed farmers’ anxiousness to get the Bt cotton seeds on seeing that the trials in the six locations were positive. “But like I said, we had to ask them to calm down to have the processes completed and for the National Biosafety Authority to take a decision on the commercialisation,” he said.
Explaining the processes for the trial of the variety, Dr Chamba said that while trying the variety, “we sprayed the Bt cotton two times only as compared to the six times we did for the non-Bt (conventional) cotton.
“So with the Bt, it proved how farmers can cut down their spraying cost; how they will also reduce the impact of the chemicals on their environment and again how farmers will be able to save time,” he explained.
Comparing the yield of the Bt cotton with the conventional one, Chamba said: “In fact, in all the locations we tried, the yield of the Bt cotton was higher than the conventional one with the exception of one location where the farmer could not go according to instructions.”
He added that because very little cotton was being grown in Ghana, the production of cotton was not as expected, even though, he further said, government was making attempts to revive it.
“Some zoning of the production sector was done and three companies; Amajaro Cotton Company, Wienco Cotton Company and Olam were selected,” Chamba said adding that the companies had pulled out.
“Unfortunately, there is no production; only Wienco is attempting because it has put cotton under its maize programme,” he stressed.
Chamba assured that the Bt cotton seed was still under investigation at the research institute because “you cannot bring GM cotton seed and start planting as per our laws.”