Bangladesh readies flood-tolerant rice varietiesNovember 7th, 2009 - 12:47 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, Nov 7 (IANS) Bangladesh is set to release three flood-tolerant rice varieties to farmers that would help prevent up to a million tonnes of annual crop loss caused by flash floods every year.
Officials associated with the project told The Daily Star newspaper that the rice varieties had a gene known as Sub1 that made the plants withstand two weeks of complete submergence.
“In September, we applied to the Seed Certification Agency for release of the three submergence-tolerant varieties, Swarna-Sub1, BR-11-Sub1 and BR-11-Recombinant-Sub1,” said Khandakar Iftekharuddaula, principal investigator of the project of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI).
“Once the agency completes its field evaluations, these varieties will be officially released, hopefully this year,” he said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the project.
The Sub1 varieties withstood submergence quite well during this year’s flash floods in Jamalpur’s Dewanganj, Kurigram’s Kachir Char, Mymensingh’s Dhobaura and Sylhet’s Golapganj, said Iftekharuddaula, the principal hand behind getting the Sub1 gene into BR-11, the country’s most popular rain-fed rice variety.
The Sub1 varieties have been tested over the last couple of years and all results show positive signs, he said.
The new varieties were made possible following the identification of a single gene that is responsible for most of the submergence tolerance. In 1995, David Mackill, then at the University of California (UC) at Davis, and Kenong Xu, his graduate student, pinpointed the gene in a low-yielding traditional Indian rice variety known to withstand floods.
Xu subsequently worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Pamela Ronald, a UC Davis professor, and they isolated the specific gene called Sub1A and demonstrated that it confers tolerance to normally intolerant rice plants.
David Mackill, who now heads the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division of IRRI, along with Pamela Ronald visited the Rangpur site of Sub1 varieties in November last year.
Iftekharuddaula worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Mackill.
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