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New flood-resistant rice: A boon for farmers in NE
Published on 3 Mar. 2010 11:58 PM IST
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Hundreds of farmers in the Indian state of Assam who had given up farming after repeatedly losing their crops to flooding are now returning to their fields. The draw back to planting? Two new flood-resistant varieties of rice, developed in Assam. “I was on the verge of leaving to the nearby cities for a job and had thought that I would need to give up farming forever,” said Bijoy Nath, a farmer in Namti village in the Sibsagar district of Assam. But “things started to change after I started to use these two new varieties of rice,” he said. Last year, his three-acre family farm, produced 6 tonnes of rice after planting the new varieties. In the five previous years, production had been less than one tonne. Other families have been able to put back into production land abandoned to flooding, thanks to the development of Jalashree and Jalkunwari, the two new varieties of rice. Kameleshwar Handique, a farmer from Amguri-hat village in the Jorhat district of Assam, managed to reclaim two hectares, boosting his production by 2.5 tonnes of rice a year, he said. According to a report in Sinlung, the new varieties are the culmination of 14 years of research by Kishore Sharma, an agricultural scientist at the Assam Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a government research centre in Assam. Developed by crossing and refining local rice strains, they have undergone five years of testing and are aimed at boosting yields and ensuring harvests despite worsening flood problems in the region. “These varieties have been bred for flash flood affected areas where the rice crop gets submerged for 7 to 15 days,” Sharma said. “In such cases most rice varieties are not able to survive.” An added benefit is that yields are generally higher than traditional varieties and “these varieties will produce grain even if it doesn’t flood,” Sharma said. Assam now has over a million hectares of land chronically affected by floods, Sharma said, and the new varieties were developed to help ensure farmers in those areas do not lose their crops and livelihoods. “In such areas farmers do not get true yield due to unpredictable flooding at any time. The popular varieties do not tolerate submergence and hence farmers cannot harvest,” Sharma said. According to estimates by the Assam agriculture department, over 5,000 farmers are now using the new varieties, even though commercial-scale production of the seed has not yet started, pending final bureaucratic approvals. “Farmers who are aware of these two varieties are collecting from the agriculture research centre as it is not available in the market as yet,” said Durgheshwar Thakuria, an officer with the Assam agriculture department. Farmers say they are delighted with the results. “Since the last two years the production in my field has gone up by almost three times after I started using Jalashree and Jalkunwari rice,” said Bhubon Borah, a farmer in Lakhimpur district. “In 2009 the yield was 40 quintals (4 tonnes) per hectare of land compared to less then 15 quintals (1.5 tonnes) per hectare when I had used the traditional variety earlier,” he said.

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