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FiBL Cotton Activities

Green Cotton-Decentralised farmers participatory identification and selection of cotton cultivars suitable to organic and Low-Input conditions in India

Small farmers of the organic cotton sector face an acute shortage of GMO free cotton seed (free of genetic engineering) due to the wide-spread dissemination and adoption of genetically modified Bt cotton hybirds. India has a wealth of elite cotton germplasm of tetraploid and diploid species, however in recent years private breeding companies became more active and focus mainly on tetraploid species like G. hirsutum and G. barbadense. Main breeding goal is the development of Bt hybrids with high fiber quality and high yield potential under optimum high input farming conditions. Although the traditional diploid cotton species G. arboreum and G. herbaceum have several advantage with regard to pest and stress resistance, they are largely neglected after the introduction of Bt cotton and their cultivation dropped within 10 years from 20% to less than 5%. However, these cotton species might be specially suited for low external input conditions under organic farming. Through close cooperation with the University of Agricultural Science Dharwad and two organic cotton organisations this gap shall be closed and decentralized cotton breeding initiatives shall be established, which remain GMO free  and meets the need of organic and low-input farmers. In an innovative transdisciplinary approach, smallholders, breeders, researchers, extensionists, spinning and textile industry will be actively involved from the very beginning. Overall objective of the project is to strengthen the smallholders by restoring their sovereignty of seed for organic cotton production.


Seed security (Green Cotton and Cotton Cultivar Evaluation (CCE))

Both projects are based on the variety testing and participatory breeding of GMO-free organic cotton in India. Currently, organic cotton production in India faces a drastic decline, which can be explained by the expansion of genetically modified Bt-cotton cultivars. The Cotton Cultivar Evaluation (CCE) project focuses on the re-establishment of the GMO-free supply chain and the short-term identification of existing cultivars that are suited to organic farming conditions. The Green Cotton project aims for long-term improvement and adaptation by decentralized participatory breeding initiatives involving male and female smallholders. Thus, both projects for organic cotton seeds establish the long-term seed sovereignty of smallholders and secure global organic cotton production in the future. Close collaboration with local farmers and public breeding institutions in India will contribute to the agricultural sector's adaptation to climate change in the future. 


Coalition Coton Bio et Equitable (CCBE)

This initiative was born from the observation that the potential of organic and fair trade cotton is very large. It is developing well, with several programs conducted for several years in West Africa. For the CCBE, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal are targeted, all supported by the Swiss Confederation. The program is based on five pillars from a commercial perspective, because in five years the structures will have to cover their costs. It is realized that it is important to work with the producers of fair trade cotton, or else, it may hamper the production. Because, for now, bio-equitable is not yet sustainable.

Productivity and profitability (SYSCOM)

The long-term trials of SYSCOM are based on the idea to research advantages and disadvantages of organic agriculture systems within the tropical region. In India, the research focuses on the comparison of cotton, soybean, and wheat crop rotations. Besides the long-term trials, SYSCOM supports “Participatory technology development (PTD)” that detects and implements locally adapted solutions for evolving problems within the organic agriculture sector.