High zinc rice released
A decade-long research by Bangladesh scientists has culminated in the release of the world's first zinc-enriched rice variety, capable of fighting diarrhoea and pneumonia-induced childhood deaths and stunting.
The scientific feat comes with Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) breeders succeeding in biological fortification (biofortification) of the staple with one of the most vital micronutrients zinc.
The National Seed Board (NSB) yesterday approved release of the hi-zinc rice -- named Brri dhan-62 -- which is also the most early-maturing variety ever released for Aman season.
Besides, 10 other high yielding and submergence, salinity and disease tolerant varieties of rice, jute and potato were released yesterday at a meeting of the NSB headed by the agriculture secretary.
The BRRI breeders developed the hi-zinc rice with support from HarvestPlus, which is a global biofortification mission launched back in 2004 under the Washington-based global agro-science coordinating body Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
India lags behind as Bangladeshi breeders succeeded in developing two hi-zinc rice varieties -- one for Aman season and the other for Boro. The Aman one got the NSB nod yesterday and as per the mandate of the international collaboration, the zinc-enriched rice variety is now expected to expand to Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Dr Alamgir Hossain, the main Brri breeder behind the zinc-enriched rice variety, who got promoted from principal scientific officer (PSO) to chief scientific officer (CSO) on Sunday, told The Daily Star that as against the average zinc content of rice -- 14 to 16 parts per million (ppm)-- the one that got the NSB nod yesterday has 20 to 22 ppm.
“Besides, we've just successfully completed field trial of another biofortified rice variety -- fit for Boro season cultivation-- which has 24 ppm zinc content. Soon we're going to apply for approval of this Boro season zinc rice too,” said Alamgir, also a post-doctoral fellow of the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
BRRI Director General Dr Md Syedul Islam told this correspondent yesterday that the zinc-enriched rice variety also outpaced two of the country's best performing Aman season early-mature varieties -- Bina dhan-7 and Brri dhan-33. Crop duration from seed to seed is 110-120 days for Bina dhan-7 and Brri dhan-33 while Brri dhan-62 can be reaped in 100 to 105 days.
"Besides, the variety is also higher in protein content (9 percent) in comparison to other Brri varieties, which have 5 to 7 percent proteins," he added.
Zinc, iron and vitamin-A are the three most vital micronutrients, deficiency of which hampers children's natural growth and decrease their disease prevention capacity. In Bangladesh, over 40 percent children under five are stunted while an estimated 44 percent children of the same age group are at risk of zinc deficiency.
The other varieties the NSB released yesterday are three rice varieties developed by the BRRI, four rice varieties by Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (Bina) and two jute and one potato varieties, officials present at the NSB meeting said.
Asked, BRRI plant breeding division head Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed said yesterday that of the newly released varieties, Brri dhan-61 is saline-tolerant and of good grain quality while Brri dhan-59 and 60 could be reaped 10 to 12 days earlier than the country's best performing Boro rice variety - Brri dhan-29.
Shamsunnahar Begum, a senior scientific officer at the plant breeding division of Bina, said that of the four new Bina rice varieties, Bina-11 and Bina-12 are submergence-tolerant while Bina-13 is an aromatic variety like Kalizira but with higher yield potential.
"While farmers get 2.5 metric tons of Kalizira from one hectare of land, they'll be able to reap 3.5 MT per hectare once they start cultivating Bina-13." Besides, Shamsunnahar added, Bina-14, the 4th variety released, is suitable for late sowing during Boro season.
The other crop varieties the NSB approved yesterday are two saline-tolerant and disease-resistant jute varieties and a disease-resistant potato variety.