Almost after a three-year hiatus, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) will be continuing its research on developing varieties of naturally coloured cotton available in various shades of green and brown.
According to scientists at TNAU, it should take between six to seven years before the varieties of cotton are commercially produced. This is due to the fact that a maximum of two trials can be conducted every year following the crossing since cotton can be harvested every six months.
Earlier in 2015, the varsity had made attempts to develop the cotton varieties. However, the process had been put on hold due to the lack of demand for coloured cotton in the market. Moreover, this would spoil the white cotton that is being grown near the coloured cotton.
The objective behind producing naturally coloured cotton is the prevention of water pollution. The water bodies around factories employ dying units, which release harmful untreated effluents into the water. An effort to produce naturally coloured cotton is already underway at the Central Institute of Cotton in Nagpur. TNAU has also resumed its efforts for the cause. According to Dr S Geetha, Director of Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics, there are a number of varieties of naturally coloured cotton in the country.
Dr Geeta stated, “We are in the process of identifying them, crossing them with stabilized cultivated cotton varieties, and then trying to find the superior coloured variety with good fibre length, strength and microlayer counts.”
The element added by scientists to the crop is the colour gene, while the rest of the process in nearly conventional.
She also stated that naturally occurring coloured varieties will be found on a regular basis and will be experimented with until a variety of cotton with a sufficient amount of colour is produced with positive signs of high yield.
“The target is to develop cotton with enough colour and minimize the requirement for dyeing. TNAU too says there are many limitations to cultivating naturally coloured cotton. First of all, cotton comes only in a few natural colours like shades of brown, green and blue. If you further colour the garments made of naturally coloured cotton fabric with chemical dyes for designs, the point is lost” expressed Geetha.
She also said that at least 99% of the cotton demand is for the pure white, so we can’t afford to get that contaminated. Hence, coloured cotton has to be cultivated on a small, niche and isolated area.