Drought-resistant Rice Reaps Success in India

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A new variety of rice might prepare India’s agriculture for a drier future. Scientists at the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Central Rainfed Upland Rice Research Station (CRURRS) are reaping positive results from the field tests of the Sahbhagi dhan rice that, they say, can tolerate up to 12 days without rain, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The strain, which took researchers about 15 years to develop, is especially designed to survive the dry spells that might occur between June and September –- the period of most intensive rice cultivation in India.

“We have already given it for testing to farmers in their fields,” said Mukund Variar, an agricultural scientist. “It’s being tested in several villages and is proposed for release in the states of Jharkhand and Orissa. Hopefully, it will be released in a couple of months.”

The secret of Sahbhagi dhan’s success lies in its ability to take moisture from the deeper layers of the soil. The rice is also resistant to pests and diseases and has a more sturdy stem that does not bend, according to Dr. VD Shukla of CRURRS.

Even though it has been undergoing field tests since 2006, the Sahbhagi dhan is expected to show its true potential this year, as drought-like conditions are challenging India’s agricultural production to the fullest. The delayed monsoon season failed about 60 percent of the crops in some regions of the country and left hundreds of hectares of farmland unplanted in others.

India, the world’s second largest rice grower, produces more than 100 million tons of rice annually. On average, it takes 3,000 to 5,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of rice in India and about 3,400 liters around the world.

Read more here.

Source: the BBC

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, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.

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