This article was edited from a post on the CABI blog here.
CABI’s centre in India is actively working to help cotton growers increase their yields. This involves fighting pests and diseases with safer, more environmentally friendly bioprotection products, also known as biological control (biocontrol) products and biopesticides.
India is the largest producer of cotton globally. The crop provides livelihoods to around 60 million people and there are around 5.8 million cotton farmers in the country. There are around 11.7 million hectares in India, compared to about 31.2 million hectares around the world.
CABI’s work to promote bioprotection
Phase one of CABI’s work – carried out with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) – saw CABI staff train partners on the sustainable management of general pests and diseases of cotton.
The second phase of activity has started to facilitate the mass production of biocontrol agents and biopesticides. This work was achieved with the Anand Agricultural University (AAU) in Vadodara, India.
The target was to train 30 ‘master trainers’ as part of a six-day training programme to cascade knowledge to farmers.
Teaching growers to produce biocontrol agents
In the training, participants learned how to produce biocontrol agents and had practical sessions. The CABI BioProtection Portal supported them by enabling users to discover information about registered biocontrol and biopesticide products.
Some activities included master trainers showing participants host insect, Corcyra and the biocontrol agent, Trichogramma chilonis, and education on the process of producing important macrobial biocontrol agents like Chrysoperla carnea and Reduviid bug. Trainers also stated the importance of maintaining a contamination-free pure culture.
The training included a lesson on the most useful microbial bioprotection products like Trichoderma and Beauveria spp. The advantage of these two biocontrol agents is that they have a considerable shelf life, allowing them to be stored on agro-dealer shelves. However, often these biocontrol agents are not available. Therefore, understanding their basic characteristics can help in the production and efficacy in the field.
These two biocontrol agents target significant pests and diseases such as bollworm, root rot, and wilt disease. Producing them could effectively manage pests and diseases in the cotton ecosystem.
Master trainers focused further on the mass production of these microbial pesticides. They covered processes such as sterilization, media preparation, inoculation, incubation, and formulation.
As part of the training, participants visited an organic cotton farm. They learned about various methods related to organic cotton farming during the visit.
Dr Malvika Chaudhary, Regional Coordinator Asia for Plantwise and Project Manager, said, “It is important to link producers at the local community level to nearby university and government science centres so that they can ensure the safe and proper use of the biocontrol agents. The master trainers also learned about quality control in biopesticides; a crucial part of biopesticide production.”
Learn more about the biocontrol and biopesticide products that exist for cotton around the world on the BioProtection Portal.