Wednesday, April 15, 2015

India: Swarna-Sub1 hailed as a major innovation with great potential for helping rice farmers in flood-prone areas

Shri Radha Mohan Singh, the Indian Union Agriculture Minister, declared the flood-tolerant rice, Swarna-Sub1, as a major innovation with great potential for helping farmers in the flood-prone lowlands of eastern India. Swarna-Sub1 can survive being under water for two weeks and produce higher yields that the same variety without the flood-tolerant gene. Mr. Singh encouraged farmers to take full advantage of the variety in their flood-prone fields, which often remain submerged during the rainy season because of flash floods.

Addressing farmers from 15 states during the inauguration of the Horticulture Conclave in his native town of Motihari in Bihar on April 10, Singh emphasized the need for bringing the Green Revolution to India’s eastern region.

In response, many farmers at the fair visited the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) booth to know more about the flood-tolerant rice that could change their livelihood. The IRRI team provided farmers with brochures about Swarna-Sub1.

"This is first time I learned about this variety and I cannot believe it can survive under water for more than 10-12 days," says Mr. Kishore Yadav, a farmer from Betiah district. "I got all necessary information from the IRRI booth including literature and source of seed. I am definitely going to give it a try this coming season in my field near river Gandak."

The farmers also showed great interest in Sahbhagi dhan, a drought-tolerant rice variety, as droughts often affect rice grown in elevated areas. Mr. Singh appreciated IRRI's efforts to distribute brochures for the management of these varieties in Hindi and other local languages. He also acknowledged IRRI’s efforts to disseminate technology and seed in Bihar through the Improved Rice-Based Rainfed Agricultural Systems and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) projects.

In addition to promoting the use of climate-smart rice, Singh also shared information on the steps the agriculture ministry had taken in the past year to improve the condition of farmers especially in the eastern part of the country where productivity is still very low.

"We would provide a soil health card to every farmer to keep one informed of requirements of their fields." He said there were efforts to remove intermediaries in the transfer of subsidies for the purchase of farm equipment. He emphasized the importance of making high-quality seeds and agriculture plantation materials available to farmers for increasing productivity.  "Increasing productivity is important along with proper marketing facilities for the agricultural crops," he added.

During his address, he urged the Small Farmers' Agriculture-Business Consortium to support farmers and form more “farmer-producer organizations” to help improve the plight of farmers. He mentioned plans to establish two more Indian Agricultural Research Institute offices in Jharkhand and Assam. Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Samastipur, Bihar also received central university status. These institutes are expected to improve education, awareness, and agricultural productivity in India’s eastern region.

"We will not sit and rest till we succeed in ensuring the turnaround of the farm sector and bring smiles to the faces of the farmers," the agriculture minister said.

Horticulturists, agricultural input suppliers, agriculture machinery producers, seed producers, and agriculture institutions from across the country participated in the event organized by the agriculture ministry in association with National Horticulture Board.

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