(Hindu Special Correspondent, Dated March 18, 2000)

Attur region, one of the chronically water stared region in the state, might revolutionise cotton production if a "genetically modified" hybrid seeds, were to succeed.

"Boll Worm" has been a major threat to cotton growers and it costs more than 30 to 40 percentage of the production cost to combat this menace.

The new Genetic Engineering Technology, aimed at reducing the cost and making cotton resistant to major pests like Boll Worms, would be a big boost to cotton cultivation if it is succeeded.

This region has been contributing seeds to more than 5% of the total cotton coverage of 20 million acres in the country.

In Tamil Nadu alone, out of the total cotton cultivation area of about 6 lakh acres, Attur contributes about 15%. Attur is not a traditional Cotton Area and Cotton cultivation in the late 1970s, points out Mr.N.K.Periyasamy, former joint Director of Agriculture.

It was in 1977 - 78 that "suvin" variety, fit for high counts like 100s, was introduced in the area which would produce up to 8 quintals under rain fed conditions and this was raised in 12,000 to 15,000 acres. However it was overtaken by the LRA variety in 1985 which ruled the roost up to 1990.

Till then hybrid cotton has not been popular in the area. Though the private company, founded by a former Agriculture Officer, Mr.M.Ramasami, and supported by retired Breeder and well known cotton researcher, Mr.R.Krishnamurthy, started working on "Quality Seed Production" in 1980, the efforts came to fruition only after a decade in the form of RCH hybrid seeds which were high yielding and resistant to adverse conditions.

"Attur has become as popular as Kurnool and Nandyal in Andra Pradesh, Nanded in Maharashtra and Ider in Gujarat in hybrid seed production. Though it was Jalna in Maharashtra and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu which were chosen in 1960s for seed production, we have unseated Coimbatore from the pedestal because it does not have hybrid seed production now but only of varieties", claims Mr.Ramasami. The hybrid varieties of Attur are among the top ranking ones in the All India Co-ordinated, cotton improvement project trials for years together. The hybrid seeds are marketed in Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Karnataka.

He points out that hybrid seeds of Attur are fit for cultivation of Cotton of 40 and 60 counts that would have ready market all the time and like the fluctuating market for the high counts.

Mr.V.Thyagarajan, former Joint Director of Agriculture, points out that this is a 135-150 days crop. While the government varieties six to eight quintals per acre, the hybrid seeds of Attur could even yield as much as 18 to 20 quintals in irrigated conditions. Even in dry conditions, they yield 8 to 10 quintals per acre.

A special feature of this hybrids is that even if they were to be seriously hit due to natural calamities, they tend to rejuvenate. "Thus break- even is guaranteed for the farmers at any cost".