LOS BAÑOS, Philippines - An unprecedented regional seed cooperation agreement, involving India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, is speeding up the release and dissemination of rice varieties to benefit farmers in the region. The agreement is a result of discussions among officials of the three countries, convened by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) through the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project.
“The regional cooperation system is the most suitable platform for India, Bangladesh, and Nepal because they share similar agroecologies and borders,” Abdelbagi Ismail said during his presentation at the recently concluded IRRI-Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Science Week, held here from 26 to 30 January.
“With this seed cooperation system, a rice variety that is tested, approved, and released in one country can also be released simultaneously in another, provided that they have the same agroclimatic conditions,” said Abdelbagi Ismail, principal scientist at IRRI and leader of the STRASA project.
The regional seed cooperation saves a lot of resources and shortens the time required for a variety to be released in one country. If a country released the same variety released in another country, it will save a significant amount of time required in the breeding process. Varieties developed through marker-assisted breeding takes 2 years while it takes 7 years or more for varieties developed through conventional breeding.
“In fact, several varieties released in one country are already popular in another. For example, BR11, BRRI dhan 28, and BRRI dhan 29, modern high-yielding rice varieties released in Bangladesh, are now widely grown in eastern India,” he reported.
Indian varieties are currently estimated to be planted in more than 21% of the rice area in Bangladesh. Some Indian rice varieties such as Swarna, Sarju 52, and Samba Mahsuri are now popular in Nepal.
According to Dr. Ismail, agreement on regional seed cooperation was reached because these three countries have well-established research and rice varietal development programs. Moreover, they share similar guidelines for varietal evaluation and release.
The Indian government is taking the initiative to implement the regional cooperation agreement. Several varieties released in Bangladesh such as BINA dhan 8, BINA dhan 10, BINA dhan 11, and BINA dhan 12 are in the queue to be released in the states of West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha in India. These varieties will be evaluated for release in other states also, but only for a year.
Sukha dhan5 and Sukha dhan6, drought-tolerant varieties released in Nepal, are being considered for release in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The good news is that, the Department of Agriculture of India allotted 30% of its funds to programs such as National Food Security Mission NFSM) and Bringing the Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) to further promote climate-smart rice developed by STRASA starting this year.
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