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Seeding the Green Future: OCA accelerates organic cotton breeding and seed availability in India

C&A Foundation-423

The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) represents the apparel industry’s major brands and key stakeholders. All committed to a viable organic cotton sector, with at its heart an improved business case for organic cotton farmers. Quality non-GM cotton seed is an essential component of that farmer business case. Therefore, OCA decided to invest in identifying and developing organic cotton cultivars that perform well under organic growing conditions and in line with market demands. A precompetitive program for organic cotton breeding in India, the world’s largest organic cotton producer, is currently being set-up.

With the growing dominance of genetically modified (GM) cotton in India in the recent decade – over 95% of Indian cotton acreage is currently GM cotton – much of the research support in cotton breeding has shifted to GM cotton. This has left a gap of research support for non-GM cotton breeding suited for organic agriculture. Sector-wide, the investment in breeding programs to improve varieties to better adapt to organic growing conditions and to keep up with the performance of conventional cotton in terms of yields and market requirements are considered a high-priority for the future of the sector.

The Indian breeding program that is being accelerated by OCA is coordinated by FiBL – the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture – and works via a cluster approach of participatory breeding with Indian public and private breeders and farmer groups. The aim is to identify and develop new high performing organic cotton cultivars; and build capacity and network among actors in organic cotton sector in India. In the long run the cultivars will contribute to quality non-GM cotton seeds that can match the performance of GM cotton seeds, making the organic cotton sector more attractive to farmers.

Learn more about the breeding program’s importance, goals, methodology, planning and more here.

(Header picture © Dinesh Khanna for C&A Foundation)