UP engages global R&D major to develop drought- and flood-resistant rice

The process of getting the required approval is on and the company is working closely with the concerned departments under the agriculture ministry.
The Uttar Pradesh government has roped in International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to develop drought and flood resistant rice varieties to insulate the state farmers’ income from these natural calamities.

The Philippines-based IRRI, which has a campus in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency of Varanasi, has also tasked with fortifying the state’s traditional paddy varieties with aroma and nutrients.

In December 2018, Modi had inaugurated the IRRI’s South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) campus in Varanasi, which is touted as a hub for paddy research and training in South Asia.

“I recently held a meeting with a team of senior IRRI officials in Lucknow, where I asked them to develop drought and flood resistant paddy for the state, which is prone to these natural calamities,” UP agriculture minister Surya Pratap Shahi told Business Standard.

He said that the IRRI field work on these mandates was on and that they had so far collected nearly 200 state paddy varieties for research.

“The IRRI is conducting field trials on an area of about 15 hectares in the Varanasi region,” Shahi said adding less than 5 per cent of the state’s total agricultural land was prone to drought and floods.

Although the food grain production in UP is robust, yet the state is now bracing up for the future challenges brought about by the current and prospective shrinkage in the farm land, impact of global warming, flooding etc.

In fact, German chemical and seed company Bayer is also looking to launch a flood resistant rice variety before the onset of the next monsoon season. While, the new variety has been launched in Bangladesh, the company has applied for the necessary regulatory approval in India.

The process of getting the required approval is on and the company is working closely with the concerned departments under the agriculture ministry. The mandatory three-year field trials for the rice variety had been conducted in West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha to be eligible to apply for the regulatory nod.

“Our flood resistant rice has shown goods results in trials and we are confident of its success in India,” a senior Bayer CropScience official had earlier told Business Standard.

UP has 17 million hectares (MH) of cultivated area, thus constituting 70% of its total geographical spread. The major crops of the state comprise paddy (rice), wheat, maize, sugarcane, chickpea and pigeonpea. The food grain production constraints are declining soil health due to multi-nutrient deficiencies, soil salinity/alkalinity and low input use efficiency.

The state has 5.6 MH under rice cultivation, which covers irrigated and rainfed areas. The major constraints in paddy cultivation are low coverage by hybrids, soil salinity/alkalinity and micro and secondary nutrient deficiency, decreasing organic carbon content in soils, flash floods, submergence and drought in Eastern UP.

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