Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Designer rice variety in the offing: Society for Advancement of Rice Research and Indian Council of Agricultural Research take the lead

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine a new variety of rice that can grow in
harsh environments, get nutrients on its own and is capable of
fighting pests without any intervention by farmers. Scientists have
now harped on the idea of developing “sow-and-forget” designer rice
that could meet the future food needs of people in an over-populous
earth.

Visionary rice researchers from different parts of the country will
soon converge in Hyderabad to come out with “wild and weird” ideas on
developing a designer variety of rice that can withstand the
challenges of climate change. The question before the rice scientists
is “Can we make rice plant meet its nutrient needs on its own, grow
well under water limited conditions and defend itself against biotic
(pests) and abiotic (environment) stresses, but still produce more
with nutritionally enhanced grain?”

The Society for Advancement of Rice Research, the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, the Department of Biotechnology and Acharya NG
Ranga Agricultural University will sponsor a dialogue on “designer
rice for future” at the Directorate of Rice Research in the city. The
idea is to pool the national scientific talent to develop a rice
variety for the future using recent advances in biosciences.

The need for the designer rice gains significance as rice is the
staple food for more than one-half of the people on the earth. Current
trends of rice production are in pace with the demands of the growing
population across Asia, Africa and South America. However, changes in
the economy and lifestyles of the region are going to be more
demanding in quantity and quality of the commodity.

According to ICAR scientists involved in the project, shrinking
natural resources like land, water, plant genetic resources and the
inevitable adverse effects of the changing climate, are bound to
decelerate growth rates in rice production and productivity. This
throws up the challenge: whether existing rice genotypes be able to
meet the future requirement of food and nutrition. The answer lies in
the new designer rice, they argue.

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