Two new Bt cotton varieties, MRC 7377BG11 and MRC7361BG11, have been approved for commercial release by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Materials, at its 26th meeting in Ibadan on Thursday.
The crops, which are Nigeria’s first home-grown GM cotton, were developed by Mahyco Nigeria Pvt. Limited in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
They are expected to bring succour to farmers and boost Nigeria’s textile industry with a yield of 4.1 to 4.4 tonne per hectare as against the local variety’s yield of 600 to 900kg per hectare.
Speaking at the event in Ibadan, the Chairman of the Committee, Chief Oladosun Awoyemi remarked that the release and registration of GM cotton is revolutionary to the agricultural development of the country as it would lead to the future adoption of the GM technology in Nigeria of food crops.
The Director General/CEO of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Alex Akpa at a press conference on Friday, in Abuja, said, the official registration marked the entry into the nation’s agricultural system.
Akpa said the new species will save farmers the trouble of contending with the local conventional variety which is no longer accepted at the international market.
According to him, “This new variety has the potential of being adopted in all the cotton growing zones of Nigeria with maturity of 150 -160 days. It is resistant to bollworm complex, high seed cotton yield, early maturity tolerant to suckling insect pest with fibre length of 30.0 to 30.5mm and a fibre strength of 26.5 to 27.0 g/tex (tenacity) and micronaire (strength) 3.9 to 4.1.”
Akpa noted that the development has a wider implication for the socio-economic development of Nigeria as comatose textile industries that have been under lock and key over the years now have hope of resuming production as farmers will have access to high yielding cotton variety.
While other crops are undergoing confined field trials at various stages in different research institutes across the country, he said, “With this development, Nigeria has demonstrated that it has the institutional capacity and human resources to safely deploy genetic engineering in the agricultural sector.”
According to Dr. Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), this is a very big and important milestone in the history of Modern Biotechnology practice in Nigeria. This will help revamp the textile industry by overcoming the most devastating pest (bollworm) in cotton production.