On July 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Pakistan’s International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) celebrated a decade of scientific breakthroughs in cotton breeding through the Cotton Productivity Enhancement Program (CPEP) – a project that has bolstered Pakistan’s cotton production and agricultural trade. The ceremony recognized the efforts of over 60 partners and marked the end of the decade-long project, which USDA and ICARDA jointly implemented with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Cotton is one of Pakistan’s most important crops, yet by the mid-1990s, the prevalence of the cotton leaf curl virus (CLCuV) had seriously limited production. CPEP developed a laboratory diagnostic test to detect the virus and monitor its spread. As part of the project, farmer field schools were held throughout the growing season in smallholder farmer villages to train farmers, particularly women, on best management practices to increase crop yields. Researchers also developed new cotton seed that are resistant to CLCuV in Pakistan.
According to Dr. Jodi Scheffler, the USDA lead scientist for CPEP: “With the support of key scientific organizations such as ICARDA and the National Institute for Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering, the project has enabled the sharing of scientific knowledge between the United States and Pakistan, strengthened the livelihoods of smallholder cotton producers in Pakistan, and will protect the U.S. cotton crop against potential outbreaks of CLCuV.”
As a result of CPEP, Pakistani farmers now have access to seeds that are resistant to CLCuV with the promise of even more varieties available on the market once they receive government approval.