Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Stress-tolerant rice varieties gain support of agriculture secretary and farmers in Odisha

ODISHA, India—Shri Manoj Ahuja (second from left in photo), principal secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment (DoA), Government of Odisha, commended the introduction of two stress-tolerant rice varieties in the state.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has introduced flood-tolerant BINA 11 and drought-tolerant DRR 42 in Odisha for the 2015-16 rabi season through the IRRI-coordinated projects Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA) and the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA). CSISA and STRASA, in collaboration with DoA, planted BINA 11 and DRR 42 using a mechanical rice transplanter and seed drill under best management practices on 200 hectares and 100 hectares, respectively, in Puri, Bhadarak, and Balasore Districts. 

The projects, both funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, showcased the stress-tolerant rice varieties and associated technology options so farmers can observe and evaluate their performance.The critical role of service providers of mechanical rice transplanters and seed drills was also discussed with the farmers. These machines help farmers plant rice on time, alleviate labor shortages, and reduce the cost of rice cultivation.

Ahuja, along with national partner scientists Dr. J.K. Roy, Dr. Ashok Kumar, teams from CSISA and STRASA, and officials of the DoA visited farmers’ fields in Kahanapur and Kunarpur villages in Puri, and Sisolo Village in Khorda District on 30 April. Ahuja noted the enthusiastic response and feedback from farmers regarding the varieties. 

The participating farmers were excited when they found that these varieties can still be planted even during the ensuing kharif with their own seed produced in the current dry season. With proper roguing and procurements, the seeds of BINA 11 and DRR 42 produced in the current dry season will be sufficient to cover around 30,000 and 12,000 hectares, respectively, in the ensuing wet season of 2016.

BINA 11 is a high-yielding variety that is suitable for low-lying flood-affected areas. It matures in 120–130 days, and has good grain quality. It can potentially replace Lalat, a traditional variety that is commonly grown during the dry season. BINA 11 is superior to the traditional variety in terms of numbers of tillers, length of panicle, and number of seeds per panicle. 

Based on present crop status, discussion with farmers, and initial crop cut data, the average grain yields of BINA 11 and DRR 42 are around 5.5–6.0 and 5.0–5.5 tons per hectare, according to Dr. Narayan Banik, IRRI agricultural research and development specialist based in Odisha. 

The principal secretary also showed interest in seeing more progress in addressing fallow lands based on cropping systems with green gram, mustard, maize, and sunflower layered with mechanization, improved technologies, and best agronomic practices. Ahuja, in particular, focused on the skill improvement and capacity building of the stakeholders and the DoA extension staff, using the Transfer-Operate-Transfer model supported by simple print materials. He assured stakeholders of his department’s support for continuing and upscaling such efforts across Odisha in the future and suggested continuous interactions and regular updates.

Ahuja commended IRRI for its consistent support extended to Odisha farmers, not only through developing stress-tolerant rice varieties but also demonstrating their performance in farmers’ fields.

(This article was written by Narayan Banik, Vivek Kumar, Priyanka Anand, and Ashok Kumar.)

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