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Senior Scientist, Central Institute for Cotton Research, ICAR, Regional Station, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
The influence of Extension in Indian Cotton sector is time immemorial, influential and imperative. Extension in cotton started during the American civil war, when the Confederacy has stopped sending cotton to British which prompted the Britain to turn to Indian cotton. The spread of American and Egyptian cotton in Indian soil was the evidence for the existence of cotton extension in the country in 18th and 19th centuries. The establishment of various institutions expedited the extension work of cotton in India in 20th century. The visible changes created in the production were the evidences for the effectiveness of the cotton extension programs executed during that century. The first line extension programs of Indian Council of Agricultural Research facilitated the effective transfer of latest cotton technologies both in last as well as in the current century. Presently, in the information era, to speed up the diffusion of technologies from the research system to the end users, ICAR-Central Institute for Cotton Research has been executing a novel mobile phone based extension mechanism called “e-Kapas network” for effective knowledge transfer. Disseminating cotton technologies through regular voice SMS in vernacular languages to the cotton growers registered with the network in ten different cotton growing states of the country is the major mandate of the project. Under this project, in Tamil Nadu state alone, up to June 2015, 11864 farmers had registered and so far 2,41,917 voice SMS alerts have been sent to the registered growers. Even though, the impact of this approach nullifies the criticism that results and advisories of cotton research did not reach the farmers in time, still there are needs to include other extension innovations and technology forecasting aiming inclusive development with the current program. Proposing a synergetic cotton extension model for profitable and sustainable cotton farming with due consideration of changes occurring in the cotton scenario, sector and among stakeholders is the need of hour. This paper is the outcome of the review and analysis on the history, development, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges of past Indian cotton extension programs and proposal of a new synergetic approach for the near future.