The Times of India
By Rajeshree Nagarsekar, TNN
April 16, 2009
MARGAO: With the completion of the final round of field testing of the Bt (basillus thuringiensis) brinjal (a bio-engineered crop) at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Margao on Tuesday, biotechnologists claimed success in eradicating the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) menace, besides ensuring safety of consumers and environment.
FSB is the most damaging pest on brinjal crops and farmers need to spray 25-80 rounds of pesticides during each growing season.
Conventional management methods have not succeeded in mitigating FSB infestation in eggplant. Biotechnology tools have accelerated the breeding strategies with precision in gene transfer that can provide sustainable resistance to FSB. Bt is a soil bacterium that contains a protein that is toxic to a narrow range of insects, but is not harmful to animals or humans," stated K Vijayaraghavan, regional co-ordinator, agricultural biotechnology support project (ABSP) II-South Asia.
Close to its commercial release, the Bt brinjal is the first Bt vegetable crop in India and the first brinjal variety in the world. "The field test at Margao is an extension of various scientific trials and rigorous bio-safety examinations conducted jointly by University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore along with ABSP II," Dattatray Pandit of KVK told TOI.
Developing and field testing were undertaken at six different locations, including northern Karnataka, southern Maharashtra and Goa while the local varieties included malapur local, kudachi local and rabkavi local (northern Karnataka), manjari gota (southern Maharashtra), udupi gulla (coastal Karnataka) and GO-112 (a popular genotype in Goa).
Satish Tendulkar, director of agriculture, Goa expressed confidence that the technology will boost brinjal cultivation in Goa. "Goa has almost 500 hectares under brinjal cultivation with another 500 hectares cultivated during monsoon. GO112 is the popular variety cultivated at Agassaim," Tendulkar told TOI.
Experts revealed that all the Bt local varieties and their non-Bt counterparts were subjected to critical observation for level of expression of Cry1Ac protein, FSB infestation, occurrence of beneficial and non target insects all through the trial period in regular intervals.
With the approval of government, TNAU is expected to launch Bt brinjal open pollinated varieties for commercial cultivation later during the year. "This will benefit thousands of small and marginal farmers of the country, besides benefiting the environment and consumers who will now avail pesticide-residue-free fruits," opined P Balasubramanaian, director, Centre for Plant Molecular Biology, TNAU.
In addition to the advantages of reduction of in pesticide usage, minimization of yield loss and economic benefits, experts believe that Bt brinjal has a significant role in improving the nutrition status of the masses, since it is one of the largest produced and consumed vegetables in the country.