BHUBANESWAR: Enabling more farmers of the State to have stresstolerant rice varieties, after the introduction Swarna-Sub1, steps are underway to incorporate tolerant genes for salinity, drought and heat.
Orissa is the first State in the country to officially release the flood-tolerant Swarna variety which was developed by researchers of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and University of California-Davis by deriving the flood-tolerant gene SUB1 from traditional rice grown in the State, FR13A.
According to IRRI Director- General Robert S. Zeigler, the need for other stress-tolerant varieties was felt as the paddy cultivation in the region is largely affected by extreme natural calamities like drought, cyclones and most recently, after rapid climate change, through a fickle monsoon.
Earlier the biggest challenge was flood, but subsequently other factors like salinity after frequent cyclones and sea water surge, temperature rise and drought like situation in western Orissa districts have put the challenge before rice researchers to incorporate these genetic factors in the plant, he said.
Not only the stress factors, but to address future vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in the population due to rising food prices and poverty indicators, ‘golden rice’ is being developed by the Manila-based institute to have beta-carotene in the rice grain so that common man while consuming rice can have adequate vitamin A intake.
Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A inside the body.
The ‘golden rice’ will be ready for farmers’ use within a few years time, Zeigler told this paper.
He was here recently to deliver the third foundation day lecture of KIIT School of Rural Management.
VAD and other nutrient deficiency in the Asian region and especially in the eastern parts of India is a serious topic to be dealt with urgency, he said adding even there are possibilities in future to incorporate the gene of ‘golden rice’ in various stress-tolerant varieties of Orissa.
It will not only address food security, but also add to food quality as the future days are unpredictable with uncertain climatic conditions, thereby with uncertain food grain yield, he informed.
However, he allayed fears that these genetic changes are any way harmful for the mankind. Even fears regarding many major genetically modified crops and their bio-toxicity is yet to be proven scientifically, the leading plant pathologist added.