USDA Leads Review of Cotton Productivity Enhancement Program

Two top scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service are in Islamabad this week to lead the annual review of the U.S. -Pakistan Cotton Productivity Enhancement Program. The primary goal of the program is to study the Cotton Leaf Curl Virus and promote best management practices of the virus, as well as identify new sources of resistance. The study of Cotton Leaf Curl Virus is crucial in Pakistan, since the disease can cause major losses to Pakistan’s cotton industry, both threatening Pakistan’s economic stability and food security. The dynamic program is an international collaboration with a consortium of Pakistani government and university research facilities, USDA, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

Dr. Brian Scheffler, USDA’s Lead Scientist for the program, described some of the groundbreaking research that has been done under the program: “This partnership has identified new sources of resistance in cultivated cotton, which will be critical to maintaining long-term virus resistance while ensuring high levels of production. Under this program, the scientific team is developing laboratory diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of CLCuV and distinguish it from other viruses with similar symptoms.”

Dr. Jodi Scheffler, USDA’s Cotton Productivity Enhancement Program Coordinator, also noted, “So far thousands of small farmers in Pakistan have participated in trainings on best management practices for cotton production under this program. Employing practices that decrease the prevalence of the virus in the field, will lengthen the time the resistant varieties remain effective.”

Both scientists remarked on the success of the monitoring techniques used by Pakistani scientists to track the spread of Cotton Leaf Curl Virus and the excellent cooperation they observed among research institutes in Pakistan.

Agriculture is Pakistan’s second largest sector, accounting for over 21 percent of GDP. It remains by far the largest employer, with 46 percent of the labor force working in the sector. For the nearly 62 percent of the Pakistani population in rural areas, agriculture is a vital part of daily life. USDA supports Pakistani scientists and farmers to enhance agricultural productivity in Pakistan, support economic objectives and meet food security needs. The project also received funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).