Nepal Agricultural Research Council and the International Rice Research Institute are partnering in the Hybrid Rice Technology Transfer Project.

The two research institutes have inked a memorandum of understanding for this purpose as well. The project is expected to add a new dimension to the rice research sector as this fiveyear project envisages attaining self-sufficiency in rice by developing hybrid varieties through identification and use of indigenous and wild varieties of rice in Nepal.

Rice, the staple crop, has contributed much to food security in the country.

Under the project to be implemented with the government's financial assistance, the overall technology of hybrid rice will be developed within the country itself to be led by NARC scientists.

As per the memorandum of understanding, IRRI will hand over to NARC the science, technology, skills and capacity required for the project, which shall make rice breeding research process prompt, efficient, effective and reliable through the use of high-end technology for the development of hybrid varieties.

NARC stated that the project will also develop Nepali agricultural scientists capable of employing high technology and innovative thinking. It will be employing Molecular Assisted Breeding, Genomic Selection, Gene Discovery and Gene Mining techniques.

New technology of rice breeding as 'three line hybrid' and 'two line hybrid' will be introduced in the country through this project.

The project aims to commercialise hybrid rice, which is more productive and climate resilient. It is also expected to expand the area of hybrid rice cultivation and thereby contribute to attaining self-sufficiency by means of import substitution.

It is believed that Nepal will develop as the proper centre of South Asia in view of the use of technology on the basis of the result attained after implementation of the project.

Nepal representative of IRRI Dr Krishna Dev Joshi and Executive Director of the Council Dr Deepak Bhandari signed the memorandum of understanding for operation of the project.

The project is expected to be a milestone in reducing import of food grains in Nepal as agro-productivity will increase once the project is fully implemented.

On the occasion, Dr Bhandari said that collaboration between the two organisations active in the research centre will increase the capacity of agriculture scientists in Nepal.

Although Nepal is an agricultural country, it has been importing rice worth around Rs 32 billion annually in recent years. Per capita consumption of rice is 138-kg annually in Nepal.

There is need of 6.1 million tonnes of paddy and 4.76 million tonnes of rice every year. The country has been producing 3.25 million tonnes rice every year.

The council has launched different famous species of paddy including Khumal 4, Radha 4, and Hardinath 1 in the past three decades. It is said that the production of these species of paddy is very good in the country.

As more than 65 per cent of the population is dependant on agriculture for their livelihood, the uplift of farmers and promotion of hybrid crops will contribute to improving the living standard of people.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 11 2021, of The Himalayan Times.