Cotton Plants having Drought-Tolerence Genes

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Scientists in Georgia and Israel have identified genes in cotton plants that could pave the way for drought-tolerant varieties - and help farmers save on irrigation cost.

Andrew Paterson, a University of Georgia geneticist who headed the research, said the six-year, $280,000 study showed that by changing the genetics of cultivated cotton, scientists could give it the traits that help wild cotton survive in semi-arid conditions.

"Many of these genes were thought to have been lost in the process of domesticating cotton for high yields under well-watered conditions," Paterson said.

With additional research, scientists might be able to incorporate the genetic changes into cultivated cotton within five years, with a conservative goal of increasing cotton's water efficiency by 10%. Paterson said.

Hugh Earl, a University of Georgia plant physiologist, estimates Georgia cotton farmers could save 12 billion gallons of water a year if cotton's water efficiency increased by 10%.

That's enough water to fill 500,000 average-sized swimming pools.

The resulting drop in irrigation would save Georgia cotton growers $2 million a year, said Don Shyurley, a University of Georgia agricultural economist who specializes in the crop.


AIBA, Financial Express, New Delhi,
January 26, 2002