Cotton, sometimes referred to as ‘white gold’ has the potential of becoming a major key to reducing poverty levels and improving livelihoods in rural communities in northern Ghana.
Its cultivation is beset with numerous challenges, especially the problem of insect pests.
Farmers can however, take a sigh of relief as a recent paper published by scientist of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-SARI) shows that a Genetically Modified (GM) cotton variety, FK 95 Bollguard II, can resist attacks by Bollworms, consequently increasing yields.
Bollworms are a group of insects that contribute significantly to reduced yields in cotton.
According to the paper, the FK 95 Bollguard II cotton variety contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that protects the plant against the bollworm complex.
The research, which was funded by the Monsanto’s subsidiary in West Africa and conducted both in Ghana by the CSIR-SARI and in Burkina Faso by the Institute de I’Environnement et des Researches Agricoles (Environment and Natural Resource Research Institute)(INERA), was to “evaluate the field efficacy of the genetically modified Bollguard II (BG II) cotton, FK 95 BG II for control of cotton bollworms in Ghana”.
It was jointly published by Mumuni Abudulai, Emmanuel Boachie Chamba, Jerry Asalma Nboyine, Ramson Adombilla, Iddrisu Yahaya, Ahmed Seidu and Foster Kangben in Nyamkpala.
The studies noted that the population density of bollworms on the Bt cotton, FK 95 BG II, were lower compared to that on the non-Bt cotton, FK 37 (conventional cotton), this showed that Bt cotton was effective in controlling the cotton bollworms.
It further indicated that in addition to the potential of the FK 95 BG II to control the bollworms, it also had high yielding features.
“Yields in the FK 95 BG II were more than double those of the FK 37 conventional cotton when both plots were sprayed for sucking insects only.
Seed cotton yields on average were higher with the Bt cotton technology compared with the conventional practice of wholly relying on insecticide spray for managing bollworms” it said.
On the cost-benefit ratio of treatments, the research revealed that the Bt technology was more cost effective which could lead to higher returns to investment than the conventional practice of relying solely on insecticides.
It added that the Bt cotton required less number of sprays as compared to the conventional cotton which could also minimise the risk of pesticide poisoning to farmers.
Explaining the research outcome, an Entomologist at the CSIR-SARI and co-author of the paper, Dr. Jerry Nboyinesaid these studies were conducted in 2013 – 2014to support government's policy of revamping the cotton industry in the country.
He said, Monsanto Company funded the research with the sole aim of finding viable cotton varieties that were economical to cultivate and could increase yields in Ghana as had been achieved by their Burkina Faso counterparts.
However, the bio-safety laws of Ghana prohibit the commercial production of Genetically Modified Organism(GMO) in the country, with confined field trial permitted under strict supervision.
It would therefore be prudent for the government to review the laws regulating GMO in the country.
This will allow for the introduction of Bt cotton varieties, thus contributing to the revival of the industry in the country.
It will also serve as source of employment for the many unemployed youth in rural areas, hence assisting government to achieve its vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid.