ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam on Wednesday said the Cotton Productivity Enhancement Programme (CPEP) helped Pakistan import more than 5,000 cotton accessions from the United States for screening against the cotton leaf curl virus (CLCuV).
Speaking at the project concluding ceremony, the minister said a new cotton variety known as “IR-NIBGE-II’ — developed under the project and approved by the Punjab Seed Council in January — will help to Pakistani cotton growers.
He said two virus-resistant cotton accessions were also released as source of virus resistant in the US by Dr Jodi Scheffler of USDA Agriculture Research Services (ARS). Mr Imam thanked the US government for its cooperation in cotton research for development, and hoped this cooperation will continue in the future.
The CPEP, a decade-long project jointly implemented by the US Department of Agriculture and ICARDA with the funding from US Agency for International Development (USAID), has been successfully completed.
CPEP helped bolster Pakistan’s cotton production and agricultural trade spanning over a decade of scientific breakthroughs in cotton breeding and developing new cotton seed resistant to virus.
Cotton is one of Pakistan’s most important crops, yet by the mid-1990s, the prevalence of the cotton leaf curl virus (CLCuV) had seriously limited the production. The recently-concluded project resulted in the development of a laboratory diagnostic test to detect the virus and monitor its spread.
As part of the project, farmer field schools were held throughout the cotton growing season in smallholder farmer villages to train growers particularly women, on best management practices to increase crop yields. Researchers also developed new cotton seed that are resistant to CLCuV.
Dr Scheffler said the project enabled sharing of scientific knowledge between the United States and Pakistan with the support of key scientific organisations such as ICARDA and the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering.
It has also strengthened the livelihoods of smallholder cotton producers in Pakistan, and will protect the US cotton crop against potential outbreaks of CLCuV, the scientist said.
A major success achieved through the CPEP project is that Pakistani farmers now have access to seeds that are resistant to CLCuV with the promise of even more varieties available on the market once they receive government approval.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2021