The emergence of a rice variety that matures faster than other mainstream varieties during the aman season has created hopes among many farmers of getting extra crop in a year.
Known as the Brri Dhan-62, the rice seed can be harvested within a 100-day cycle, nearly 50 days less than most of the improved aman rice varieties. It leaves farmers enough time to cultivate crops such as mustard, pulses or winter vegetables.
Many farmers have already harvested the variety in the outgoing aman season.
“The significance of the 50 extra days is huge for me. I have managed to sow mustard as an additional crop for the first time,” said Mohammad Abul Kashem, a farmer from Kushtia, a district in the western part of the country.
He previously grew another rice variety, Swarna, which took 145 to 160 days to mature, leaving him little time to grow another crop before the boro season kicked in. “Now, the extra crop will bring in more income.”
Developed by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (Brri), the National Seed Board approved the variety only last year.
Agricultural scientists say increased cultivation of Brri Dhan-62, which is also the world's first zinc-enriched rice, will allow farmers to get four crops a year, instead of the existing two or three, and thereby raise overall food production.
The Brri Dhan-62 variety contains 19 to 20 parts per million of zinc against 14 to 16 ppm found in other high-yielding rice varieties.
The yield from Brri Dhan-62 would be lower though, they said. Around 3.5-4.5 tonnes can be obtained from each hectare of land, which is lower than the yields from Brri Dhan-33 and Bina Dhan-7, the other two relatively short-maturing rice varieties. They take 110-120 days to harvest.
But Kashem said his fellow farmers, who cultivated the new variety, did not receive less than 5 tonnes of paddy per hectare. “Initially, I could not believe it, so I got a scale and weighed it properly.”
“If you eat the rice right after harvesting it, you will find it to be sticky. But if you give it a couple of months, the grain becomes fine and tasty,” said Rabiul Islam, a small farmer from Cheuria, Kushtia.
Islam, who previously cultivated the Brri Dhan-33 variety, said he yielded more with the Brri Dhan-62 seeds. He even began cultivating pulses earlier than in previous seasons.
“My yield of pulses will be higher this time,” he said, adding that he preserved the Brri Dhan-62 seeds to grow in the next season.
Bhogirath Chandra Tati, a farmer from Manda, Naogaon, a northwest district, said, “Many of my relatives and fellow farmers have already contacted me for seeds. They are interested in growing the rice for its ability to mature fast and its higher nutrient content.”
Tati grew the Bina Dhan-7 variety earlier, but was subsequently unable to harvest 'good mustard' for a lack of time. This rice variety gets sticky after cooking, he added.
“My mustard field looks excellent now. I will harvest it in 30 days and then transplant boro rice. It seems that for the first time, I will be able to sell some mustard and make a few extra bucks.”
He, however, said the yield from Brri Dhan-62 was lower than Swarna.
“But growers get good prices for the grain quality and early harvest,” Tati said.
Jiban Krishna Biswas, Brri director general, said the variety performed better on farmer's field than initially thought.
“The yield per hectare was more than 5 tonnes in some areas. Such yield is quite high for a 100-day timeframe. I did not expect that.”
Mazharul Anwar, principal scientific officer of on-farm research division of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute's Rangpur office, said their cultivation bagged 3.5 tonnes of yield per hectare.
AZM Momtajul Karim, director general of Department of Agricultural Extension, said the variety performs better in water-scarce areas and can also be grown during the boro season.
“The Brri Dhan-62 will be instrumental in cultivating four crops a year,” said Rafiqul Islam Mondal, executive chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council.
“After harvesting this variety during the aman season, farmers will be able to grow mustard or potato. They can later go for boro or mung cultivation and after that, aus rice.”