Agri Business

IARI’s new rice variety to lift non-basmati exports

Sandip Das | Updated on June 21, 2021

Pusa Samba 1850, an improved version of Samba Mahsuri, is widely cultivated in southern and eastern regions

Srinivasulu, a farmer from Alur, Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, in April 2021, harvested a new rice variety Pusa Samba 1850 developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) with a yield of around 4 tonnes per hectare.

The new variety is an improved version of Pusa Samba Mahsuri (BPT 5204) which has been widely cultivated by farmers in southern as well as eastern parts of the country. Pusa Samba Mahsuri variety is mostly grown during the Samba season (November-March) in the South and has a significant share in the country’s non-basmati rice exports. The variety is characterised by medium slender grain and good cooking quality.

No pesticides

Sudheer Agarwal, a farmer from Bhurekha village of Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, is upbeat about the prospects of taking up a new non-Basmati variety – Pusa Samba 1850 in the forthcoming kharif season.

Agarwal said that the key reason for taking the non-basmati rice variety developed by IARI is higher yield and virtually absence of pesticide usage. During the last two years of field demonstration across the country, farmers like Srinivasulu and Agarwal have got an average yield in the range of 4-7 tonnes/ha.

The Pusa Samba 1850 variety developed by IARI — an improved version of Samba Mahsuri (BPT 5204) — a variety is currently being grown across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar on around 1.5 million hectares.

However, Samba Mahsuri is highly susceptible to blast disease which causes significant yield and quality losses.

For managing the disease, farmers have been using more pesticides along with incurring higher labour cost, besides having an adverse impact on the environment.

Samba Mahsuri was released in 1989 by Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad for commercial cultivation.

However, with a breeder seed indent of 42.8 quintals for Kharif 2022, Samba Mahsuri remains a popular variety amongst farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

“There are around 320 rice varieties in the national seed chain at present, of which only 25 varieties have a breeder seed-indent of more than 40 quintals.

“ Despite Samba Mashuri being, more than three decades old variety it still occupies 24th position in the national breeder seed indent which is testimony to its popularity,” Gopala Krishnan S, Principal Scientist, IARI, said.

According to Krishnan S of IARI, who is the brain behind development of Pusa Samba 1850, the variety has been developed using a Marker Assisted Selection-derived blast resistant through insertion of three governing resistance to blast disease genes – Pi54, Pi1 and Pita.

This gene fortification helps ward off the deadly bacterial blight.

Higher yield

The Pusa Sambha – 1850 variety of rice went through field trials at net blast hot spots in the country such as Malan / Palanpur (Himachal Pradesh), Jammu, Ambikapur (Chhattisgarh), Nellore (Andhra Pradesh), Gudalur (Tamil Nadu), Lonavala (Maharashtra), Ponnampet (Karnataka) & Hazaribagh (Jharkand).

In a large-scale field demonstration, in Kharif 2019 conducted across Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the new rice variety had given an average yield of 6.56 tonnes/ha. In Shidenur of Raichur district of Karnataka, the average yield was around 9.3 tonnes/ha.

In the field demonstration conducted at the farmers’ field during Kharif season of 2020, the yield of Pusa Samba 1850 ranged between 5.5 and 8 tonnes across Chemmangudi and Krishnagiri (Tamil Nadu), Shahjanhanpur and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Ganagavathi (Karnataka) and Cuttack (Odisha).

The purpose was to get volumes for millers and traders to further assess its potential amongst millers and consumers.

“Pusa Sambha 1850, is a blast resistant improved version of Sambha Mahshuri (BPT 5204), the most traded rice variety in the non-Basmati segment. It will further strengthen non-Basmati exports which have crossed 13 million tonnes during 2020-21, the highest in the history of rice export,” Ashok Singh, Director, IARI said.


Breeder seed

In the next two years, a large-scale cultivation of the new variety is expected to take place.

Currently, breeder seed is supplied to private companies and NGOs for multiplication. IARI has signed an MOU with Hyderabad-based Eldorado Agri-tech Private Ltd for multiplications of seeds.

The breeder seed has been provided by IARI for multiplications into foundation seeds and certified seeds in the forthcoming kharif season.

According to an agriculture ministry official, by 2022, large scale commercial cultivation of Pusa Sambha 1850 rice variety is expected which would not only boost India’s non-basmati rice exports prospects but also reduce cost of production for farmers because of higher yield and minimal cost for pesticides.

According to Agricultural and Processed Food Product Exports Development Authority (APEDA), the non-basmati rice exports rose sharply in 2020-21 both in terms of volume and value compared to previous year (2019-20).

The volume of non-basmati rice exports rose by 159 per cent to 13.08 million tonnes (mt) in 2020-21 compared to previous year while value of exports jumped by 137 per cent to $4,796 million from $2,020 million reported in previous year.

Sandip Das is a Delhi-based writer on agriculture and food security. Views are personal.

Published on June 20, 2021

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