Scientists in Kenya are now studying the link between growing genetically engineered cotton varieties and the growth of aphids, Standard Digital reported.
Farmers prefer growing Bt cotton, as it wards of caterpillars and other pests by producing an insecticidal protein from the naturally occurring soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) making it insect resistant.
Non-Bt cotton, on the other hand, is a pesticide intensive crop, and according to a survey by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), cost of pesticides is the biggest constraint to growing cotton for 35 percent of farmers.
But, scientists are now finding out whether the suppressed production of natural defence compounds in Bt cotton, caused due to lack of caterpillar attacks gives rise to aphid attacks.
In a study published in ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’ journal, Jorg Romeis, one of the researchers, says a technology like Bt cotton should not be used in isolation, but should be used as part of integrated pest management approach.
In Kenya, commercialization of Bt cotton is set to be implemented from next year and farmers in Embu have already been trained on how to grow the crop.
About 30,450 hectares of area is under cotton at present in Kenya, but KARI estimates untapped potential to grow cotton on 350,000 hectares, which would result in production of 52 million kg of cotton.
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