Summary of Crop biology Cotton

Cotton Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) Information Summary

©2012 Neal Kramer
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)

Elements for Environmental Risk Assessment( ERA)

Crop Characteristics


Common name    

·         Cotton



·         Family Malvaceae


Growth habit


·         Herbaceous annual; grown in very hot environments


Where is the centre of origin?


·         Central America[1]


Where are the centers of genetic diversity of cotton?

·         West-central and southern Mexico, north-east Africa and Arabia, and Australia[2]


What are the closest wild relatives of cotton in Africa?

·         G. herbaceum ssp africanum, G. trifurcatum, G. arboretum, G. anomalum, G. triphyllum [3]


Where are the closest wild relatives found?

·         Eastern Somalia[4], South west Africa


How inter-fertile is cotton and its wild relatives?

·         Extremely low, they have different numbers of chromosomes, as well as other genetic in- compatibility barriers


What is the mode of pollen dispersal?

·         Insects[5] (Bees)


How long does cotton pollen remain viable in nature?

·         Between 24-30 hours[6]


What are the mating systems in cotton?

·         Predominantly self pollinated


Is cotton naturally invasive?      

·         Cotton does not persist in wild environments


Is cotton a problem weed in agricultural field?

·         No


How is cotton propagated?

·         Sexual seeds[7]


What is the mode of seed dispersal?

·         Wind and gravity


Are cotton species allelopathic?

·         No


Does cotton have substances that are toxic to humans or animals?              

·         Yes (gossypol) [8]


Is the plant species known to be a source of human allergens?

·         No


Estimate of the gene flow and weediness potential of GM cotton in Africa

Potential for


Gene flow

Extremely low, highly self pollinated and little inter-fertility with wild relatives

Weediness / invasiveness



[1] Savadogo, M. 2012. Environmental issues related to genetically modified crops in Africa. Policy Brief No 3.

[2] Seelanan, T., A. Schnabel and J.F. Wendel. 1997. Congruence and consensus in the cotton tribe (Malvaceae). Systemic Botany.

[3] Holubec, V. 2006. Genetic erosion and extinction threat to old world cottons, Gossypium L. – a case study. Genetic erosion and pollution assessment methodologies. Proceedings of PGR Forum Workshop 5, Terceira Island, Autonomous Region of the Azores, Portugal, 8-11 September 2004  pp. 65-77. Wendel, J. F., C. L. Brubaker, and T. Seelanan, 2010. The origin and evolution of gossypium. In: J.McD. Stewart et al. (eds.), Physiology of Cotton, DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-3195-2_1, pp. 1-18.

[4] Stewart, J.M. 1995. Potential for crop improvement with exotic germplasm and genetic engineering. Constable, G.A. and Forrester, N.W. eds, CSIRO, Melbourne. 313-327pp

[5] Llewellyn, D. and G. Fitt. 1996. Pollen dispersal from two field trials of transgenic cotton in the Namoi valley, Australia. Molecular Breeding. 2:157-166.

[6] Govila, O.P., and C.H. Rao. 1969. Studies on the in vitro germination and storage of cotton pollen. Journal of Palynology 5:37-41.

[7] Serdy FS, Berberich S, and Sharota E 1995. Petition for determination of non-regulated status Bollgard® cotton lines 757 and 7076 (Gossypium hirsutum L.) with the gene from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki. Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Mo.

[8] Agarwal D K, Singh P, Chakrabarty M, Shaikh A J, Gayal S G, 2003.Cottonseed oil quality, utilization and processing. CICR Technical Bulletin NO: 25


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