Flood-resistant rice strain ‘developed’

Lalitpur, October 22:

Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have discovered a gene of

rice — submergence 1 (sub-1) — that can survive floods for two weeks.

The team led by Dave Mackill of the IRRI came to this conclusion after carrying out a four-month-long experiment from June. Findings of the research were made public in the first week of October.

Nepali scientists claim that sub-1 can survive under water as long as two weeks. “It can be a boon for flood-prone areas in Nepal,” said Bhola Man Singh Basnet, an agronomist and principal scientist at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC).

The scientists planted rice (IR 64) carrying the sub-1 gene in one field and the rice without sub-1 gene in other field. Both the varieties were submerged for 12 days. The rice with sub-1 gene grew with brilliant emerald stalks after 12 days, while the other was patchy and stunted. “The flood-resistant gene has a huge potential in Bangladesh, Nepal and other flood-prone countries,” Basnet said.

Bob Zeigler, director of the IRRI said, “If they produce the way we have expected, it will be a massive impact in flood-prone zones of the world. It will be a spectacular demonstration of the power of science to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Basnet told this daily that the identification of the gene is a boon for the flood-prone areas, including the Tarai, where land and plants get submerged during monsoon.

“Our local varieties like Bindeswori, Radha-4 and Radha-12 would also be flood- resistant for over a week if we could transfer the gene into them,” Basnet said, adding, “The yield of this variety of rice is higher than that of normal rice.”

According to Basnet, the production of rice has been found, by and large, to be decreasing across the globe, mostly due to floods and drought.

Nepal had produced 44,55,722 metric tons of rice in the year 2003/04, which is the highest ever yield recorded in 50 years. But the yield went down to 36,80,838 metric tons in the fiscal year 2006/07.