Farmers are expected to receive two new high-yielding rice seed varieties next year to grow rice on submerged and salinity-prone lands, officials said at a programme in Dhaka yesterday.
One of the two is BR11 Sub-1, which, agriculture scientists hope, will give farmers a relief from crop losses because of flood during Aman season, as the rice seed is believed to be immune from any effect even though it remains under water for about two weeks.
Scientists say nearly 20 lakh hectares of land goes under water every year in flood in Bangladesh and causes losses to thousands of rice growers.
Another seed, which is yet to be named, will give farmers a second choice along with another saline tolerant seed BRRI Dhan-47 to grow rice in the coastal region during boro season when nearly 10 lakh hectares of land in the south remains fallow due to the lack of such saline-tolerant rice seeds.
The announcement regarding the formal release of two seed varieties came at a workshop at The Westin Dhaka where Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury expressed her dissatisfaction over the failure of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) to release stress-tolerant rice seed to growers.
The minister also pointed to the fact that the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) had provided flood-resistant varieties like BR11 Sub-1 and others to Bangladesh much earlier than those were given to India.
“India got such seeds in 2006 and released in 2009 whereas Bangladesh received those flood-tolerant materials in 2005. I do not understand how long BRRI will take to formally release those variety to help farmers in the flood-prone areas,” she said at the inaugural of the workshop.
Chowdhury asked BRRI for expediting the seed release. “If you point to any regulatory barrier, please make your suggestions in writing and we shall look into it,” she said.
The workshop on 'Developing PPP for Enhancing Production and Adoption of Stress-tolerant Rice in Coastal Region' was jointly organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, BRRI, IRRI and South Asia Enterprise Development Facility (SEDF).
“Crop plantation in our country suffers from drought, salinity and flood. Till date we do not have a seed variety that can fight these stresses. We expect our scientists to develop a rice seed that can tolerate all these stresses,” said the minister.
She expressed her desire at a time when farmers in some south--western districts suffer from salinity intrusion due to cyclone Aila, which is believed to be the climate change fallout.
Meanwhile, low rainfall in early rainy season is also feared to push underground water level down further that could hurt irrigation in the next Boro season.
“We must increase our food production but time has come to consider how we can grow more food in a situation under stress.” Matia Chowdhury said.
Experts think agriculture in Bangladesh has become vulnerable to clime change, as evidenced from recurrent cyclone, flood and drought.
Analysts said nearly 10 lakh hectares of land remains under saline water in the south. A rise of sea level and reduced flow of upstream may turn the situation worse in near future.
Besides, drought hurts cultivation on nearly 9 lakh hectares of land, while flood affects farming on about 20 lakh hectares of land.
“We are hopeful to release the BR11 Sub 1 this year to help farmers grow rice on low lands during Aman season,” said Anwar Faruque, director general of Seed Wing at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Another saline-tolerant variety that has been developed by BINA (Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture) will also be released, Faruque added.