Flood Resistant Rice: Assam’s Gift to Farmers

Amarjyoti Borah

Two flood resistant varieties of rice developed by agriculture scientists in Assam have brought cheers to flood affected farmers as these are able to withstand flood and water logging and still give good yield.

The two rice varieties– Ranjit Sub-1 and Bahadur Sub-1, have been developed by scientists at the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Jorhat in Assam.

The agriculture scientists who have developed these said that the improved varieties can tolerate complete submergence up to two weeks and this will help the flood affected farmers increase their rice production even in the flood seasons.

Explaining this, Sanjay Kumar Chetia, principal scientist at the Institute said that usually even in the worst flood situation when the flood water recedes from the agricultural field in 2 weeks, these new varieties will not be affected even during the most severe flooding.

Chetia said that these rice varieties will be very beneficial to the farmers in Assam as the state is one of the major rice growing states in the country and about 5 lakh hectares of rice growing area is chronically affected by flood and sometimes it becomes even more than 10 lakh hectares in a year.

“For the development of this new variety of rice, we had initiated introgression of Sub 1 gene in two popular varieties of rice –“Ranjit” and “Bahadur”. It was introgression of submergence tolerance gene in “Ranjit” and “Bahadur”,” said Chetia.

Chetia also pointed out that these are the first products from the North East region that have been developed with the help of molecular marker technology. He also added that Ranjit, which is a high yielding variety was preferred over other varieties of rice as it is very popular in the state and is cultivated almost in 50 percent cultivable area.

“The farmers in the state are accustomed to using Ranjit for cultivation as they have been doing this for years and since one of these newly developed variety is Ranjit with the submergence tolerant quality, we are sure that it will be widely accepted by the farmers,” said Chetia.

The earlier similar varieties of rice that have been developed in the state took almost 12 years as those were developed using traditional methods. But these took less than 4 years as they were developed using bio-technology.

Assam is razed by flood every year damaging thousands of hectares of agricultural land.

Reports of the Assam revenue and disaster management department point out that in 2016, around 2 lakh hectares of agricultural land were affected as a result of flood.

The Assam government has said that flood resistant rice varieties are necessary for the farmers as the state is flood prone and affected by flood every year.

“Flood affects thousands of farmers and their agricultural land in the state every year and this is an annual phenomenon in the state. This is one reason why the government is giving a lot of emphasis on development of such varieties of rice,” said Assam agriculture minister Atul Borah.

Borah said that the state’s agrarian economy, which is the state’s backbone in terms of economy, is affected every year as a result of flood and erosion.

“Both flood and erosion has been putting pressure on the farmers in the state, and every time a big flood occurs, the problems of the farmers increase. For this reason, development of such varieties of rice is a welcome move,” said the minister.

Borah also added that the Assam government is planning to fund more research in the field of agriculture.

Farmers Rejoice

The Institute has made the rice varieties available to farmers in the flood affected areas in the Sibsagar district and the farmers have benefited a lot after using these.

Farmers in the flood affected areas have pointed out that often during flood, a major portion of the cultivation gets damaged if flood water is there on the agriculture field for over 7-10 days at a stretch.

“These two rice varieties could prove to be very valuable to the flood affected farmers. These rice varieties can easily withstand flood water for 14-15 days so only a minimal damage will take place in the production,” said Bijoy Nath, a farmer from the Nathgaon village, in the Sibsagar district.

Nath said that he possesses 3 hectares of agricultural land but with the severity of flood, he faces difficulty in producing enough yield from his land as flood does a lot of damage every year.

“I will be able to earn an extra of around Rupees Twenty-five thousand per season if I use these varieties as the loss due to flooding will come down many folds,” said Nath.

Other farmers also mentioned similar issues.

Gokul Hazarika, another farmer from the same village said that he was never aware about flood resistant varieties till he cultivated the two varieties and said that these could do wonders for the flood affected farmers.

“I have two plots of land, and one plot—measuring 2 hectares is severely flood affected. After failing to get good yield from that plot for many years, I had stopped cultivating there since several years,” Hazarika said.

He however said that he will start cultivating in that plot using these two varieties  from now onwards.

“There are many farmers who were even forced to give up cultivation due to flood but I think with these two varieties of rice, many of those farmers will be able to return to farming again,” said Hazarika.

The Varieties Go Global

In a major boost to the research of the scientists who have developed the rice varieties, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will be promoting these globally.

“Officials from the IRRI have approached us and have showed interest in promoting both these rice varieties among farmers in other parts of the globe. I am sure that both these varieties will yield good results in any agrarian area across the world and will be accepted widely,” said Chetia.

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