For BCI, the 2017-18 cotton season harvest was completed towards the end of 2018

For BCI, the 2017-18 cotton season harvest was completed towards the end of 2018

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) says more than two million cotton farmers in 21 countries received training on more sustainable farming practices in the 2017-18 cotton season, with participants achieving a reduction in water and pesticide use while increasing yields and profits.

Through training, tools and capacity building, BCI farmers learn how to address and tackle pertinent issues in cotton production, from water use to pest management to decent work. 

And results from the 2017-18 cotton season – whose harvest was completed towards the end of 2018 – "clearly demonstrate" the benefits of implementing more sustainable practices around the world. 

Highlights include BCI farmers in China achieving 25% higher profits in the season and generating 14% higher yields than comparison farmers, despite continuing to face challenges due to extreme and irregular weather.

In particular, BCI farmers in the region used 18% less water, achieved in part by levelling fields – preparing the ground so that water could move easily across their fields – prior to irrigation in early spring.

In India, meanwhile, BCI farmers optimised their use of water, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, achieving 9% higher yields than comparison farmers, and 24% higher profits in the 2017-18 cotton season.

Despite extensive monsoon rains hitting cotton farmers in Pakistan, with the Punjab region particularly affected, BCI farmers achieved 40% higher profits than comparison farmers, in part, by adopting more sustainable techniques to raise their yields and reduce their input costs. Rising cotton prices and government subsidies further encouraged them to invest in cotton farming, with cultivated cotton areas increasing by around 16%.

Working closely with BCI implementing partners, BCI Farmers achieved 15% higher yields by learning to monitor water-stressed plants or dry soil and using this information to help determine when and how much water to apply through irrigation.

To further optimise their use of water, BCI farmers in Pakistan engaged in laser levelling (using specialist equipment to help ensure the land is even and sloping the best way to efficiently direct water across the field), and ridge sowing (planting crops on parallel ridges of soil in order to retain as much water in the dips in between). Overall, they used 17% less water than comparison farmers.

Despite heavy pest pressure and irregular rainfall, BCI farmers in Turkey achieved 13% higher profits than comparison farmers in the 2017-18 season. Supported by the agronomic expertise of IPUD, BCI's strategic and implementing partner in the country, the farmers responded to challenging seasonal conditions at the optimal time, generating 5% higher yields overall.

Additionally, BCI farmers in Turkey used 4% less water, with some using drip irrigation techniques to deliver water to their crops more efficiently, which in turn helped to deliver higher yields and profits.