BHUBANESWAR: Two new rice varieties - Swarna Sub-1 and IR.64 Sub-1 - developed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, combining high-yield potential with high degree of tolerance to submergence, have proved as a boon for flood-prone area farmers of South Asia, including Orissa.
Talking to this paper, Jafran Keshari Roy, plant breeder and former joint director of CRRI, said these two rice varieties are not GM crops like Bt cotton or Bt brinjal where the gene for pest tolerance has come from a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
In case of these two sub-1 rice varieties, the submergence tolerance character gene, introduced to the original Swarna and IR.64, has come from a rice variety of Orissa called FR.13A (flood-resistant) which in turn is a pure line selection of the local low-land rice variety ‘Dhala Putia’. Many attempts made earlier in India and abroad did not yield desired results from FR.13A as it is a low-yielder with poor grain quality. However, recent attempts by David Mackill, head, Rice Breeding Department, IRRI, to transfer the submergence tolerant character of FR.13A to the other popular rice varieties, including Swarna and IR.64, through Conventional Back Crossing and Marker Aided Selection resulted in the development of Swarna Sub-1 and IR.64 Sub-1.
During last kharif, seeds of the above two sub-1 lines received through US Singh, South Asian Coordinator for IRRI and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were tried in Dhanua river basin of Nimapara block of Puri district under the direct supervision of JK Roy and N Panda, former professor, OUAT, through a Bhubaneswar-based NGO - Association for Integrated Development (AID).
In the high flood of last year, when the entire crop was completely submerged for 10-12 days and most of the local high-yield varieties (HYVs) like Swarna, CR1009, Puja and Lalat got damaged up to 50-80 percent, the two sub lines showed negligible damage and yielded about 40 quintals per hectare, which was almost more than double of the output of other HYVs grown. In association with Agriculture Department, mini kits of these two sub lines will be distributed among the farmers, said Roy, also nodal scientist for the programme.