Agri Business

Designer rice varieties soon to meet future needs

Our Bureau Hyderabad | Updated on July 09, 2012 Published on July 09, 2012

Combating demand gap: (from right) Mr Robert Zeigler, Director- General, International Rice Research Institute, Manila, and Mr S.K. Datta, Deputy Director-General (Crop Sciences), ICAR, addressing a press conference at the International Dialogue on 'Designer Rice for Future: Perception and Prospects’, in Hyderabad on Monday. — P.V. Sivakumar   -  Business Line





The humble rice grain is set for a significant makeover soon. Rice scientists across the world have announced plans to develop ‘designer rice’ varieties that hold the promise to meet the ever growing need for food.

At the forefront of this initiative is International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines-based United Nations arm.

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has already begun work on designer rice by implanting good resistance attributes in wild rice varieties into the popular varieties.

Dr Robert Zeigler, Director-General of IRRI, said there was need to develop varieties with flood tolerance, three to four broadest spectrum blast resistance genes and drought resistance.

Materials with this combination would merit the label ‘IRRI inside’ and can form the basis for the creation of ‘designer’ rice varieties.

Dr Zeigler was addressing the inaugural two-day global meet on designer rice being organised by the Directorate of Rice Research (ICAR agency) and International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics here on Monday.

Transgenic varieties with beta carotene and iron fortification could be built on the same platform, he said.

Later addressing reporters, he refuted the argument that designer rice varieties would increase cost of production. On the contrary, it will reduce it as these varieties would ensure lesser intake of inputs and less dependence on water.

Dr Swapan Kumar Datta, Deputy Director-General of ICAR, said the country would require varieties for shorter duration crops that are independent of calendar. “At seedling stage, it requires cold resistance and at later stages it requires resistance to heat,” he said.

Eminent rice scientist and former ICAR DDG, Dr E.A. Siddiq, said the country was able to reap only 50 per cent of the high-yielding varieties. “There is no doubt they can take care of the country’s food needs for the next 20 years. But to address the needs thereafter, we need to have designer varieties,” he said.

IRRI breeding facility in India

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has set up its regional centre here, ending months of speculation on where the institute is locating the centre in India.

The centre, which will be inaugurated on Tuesday at Icrisat premises, will focus on research in breeding that will take care of the needs of India and other South Asian countries.

“We have been exploring various options to locate the regional centre. To start with, we are setting up the breeding facility here. We are doing this in association with Icrisat and Directorate of Rice Research,” Dr Robert Zeigler, Director-General of IRRI, said.

Dr Zeigler, who was here to attend the two-day international meet on designer rice, said this facility would go a long way in IRRI’s endeavour to have regional presence here.

Though Hyderabad has been on the IRRI’s radar, there were reports in media that the premier rice research institute might look at locations outside of Andhra Pradesh.



kurmanath@thehindu.co.in

Published on July 09, 2012

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