New Delhi/Cuttack (ISJ) ? Farmers in India?s eastern region, prone for flash floods, are now shifting to flood-tolerant variety of rice, developed by Manila-based International Rice Research Institute, IRRI. The variety ? Swarna-SUB1, is bread from a popular Indian variety of rice Swarna by upgrading it with SUB1, the gene for flood tolerance. Swarna was developed by Andhra Pradesh Agriculture University.
The new variety can withstand floods for two weeks, unlike existing varieties which would wilt if remained under water even for a few days resulting in economic loss to farmers. However, Swarna-SUB1 can rise back to life after having submerged for two weeks.�
?The demand for this variety is increasing and we are readying 300 quintal breeder seed this year,? said Dr. O.N. Singh, Head of Crop Improvement Division of Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack Odhisa. He told Indian Science Journal, after successful experimental crop, Swarna-SUB1 would now be distributed for cultivation in flood-prone areas of eastern India ? Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Odhisa and Andhra Pradesh.
Climate-smart rice varieties are made to especially thrive in environments affected by flooding, drought, cold temperatures, and soils that are too salty or contain too much iron that leads to iron toxicity. IRRI has distributed the climate-smart rice varieties to about 10 million of the poorest and most disadvantaged rice farmers in various countries in South Asia under Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project promoted by IRRI. The STRASA project was initiated in 2007, with its first two phases funded with about USD 20 million each.
?Under the past phases of the project, 16 climate-smart rice varieties tolerant of flood, drought, and salinity were released in various countries in South Asia; about 14 such varieties were released in sub-Saharan Africa. Several more are in the process of being released,? said Abdelbagi Ismail, IRRI scientist and STRASA project leader.
In addition to improving varieties and distributing seeds, the STRASA project also trains farmers and scientists in producing good-quality seeds. Through the project?s capacity-building component, 74,000 farmers?including 19,400 women farmers?underwent training in seed production.
?An estimated 140,000 tons of seed of these varieties were produced between 2011 and 2013. These seed releases are estimated to have reached over ten million farmers, covering over 2.5 million hectares of rice land.? said Dr. Ismail. This is double the initial target of 5 million farmers reached.
IRRI collaborates with more than 550 partners in getting climate-smart rice varieties to farmers in South Asia and Africa. These partners include national agricultural research and extension programs, government agencies, nongovernment organizations, and private sector actors, including seed producers.
Written by: NB Nair
Pix courtesy: IRRI