ICAR Signs Workplan Agreement with IRRI for Collaboration in Rice Research Genetic Enhancement of Rice Major Thrust Area

June 22, 2005 New Delhi

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has signed a Work-plan Agreement (2005-2008) with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Manila for collaboration in rice research. Both the organizations will cooperate in research areas of genetic resource conservation, evaluation, gene discovery, enhancing productivity and livelihood for fragile environments. Through this agreement, both the organizations will strengthen linkages between research and development, improvement and development of rain-fed rice, hybrid rice technology, biotechnology and rice based cropping systems. The agreement was signed by Dr. Mangala Rai, DG, ICAR and Dr. Robert S. Zeigler, DG, IRRI here today.

The major thrust area of the work-plan for the period 2005-2008 includes genetic enhancement of rice in terms of yield and quality. It concentrates on exchanging germplasm and sharing knowledge so as to develop promising rice hybrids suitable for large scale cultivation in India. The main objective of the collaboration is to apply genomic and bioinformatic technologies to discover useful genes for increasing rice productivity in India. The agreement provides for exchanging knowledge, technologies and material and executing research programmes that are beneficial for the country’s rice production. One of the major activities will be to identify constraints to large scale adoption of hybrid rice in India and develop strategies to overcome them.

The work-plan gives emphasis on enriching rice grain with Iron (Fe) and Zinc (Zn) through fertilizer use. Deficiency of iron and zinc is widespread in rice eating population particularly among women. The project aims to enrich the rice growing environment with iron and zinc so that the nutrition of poor rice eating populations can be improved.

Another thrust area under the agreement is to develop resilient rice varieties for drought-prone environments. Drought is the major constraint to rice production on at least 17 million ha of rainfed Riceland in India. It also affects production on about 4 million ha in dry irrigated areas dependent on surface irrigation. Thus, the thrust will be to deliver farmer-preferred varieties with improved drought tolerance and high yield potential within 6 years.

Both the organizations would also collaborate in the crop resource management, socioeconomic studies, human resource development and joint publications on rice research. Improving productivity and livelihood for fragile environments, developing technologies to harness the productivity potential of salt-affected areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plains and investigating the physiological basis of submergence tolerance under rainfed lowland, develop nitrogen, residue and weed management for minimum-tilled rice production systems that are efficient in labor, water, energy, and agro-chemical use and develop aerobic rice system are other thrust areas.

More than 15,000 of about 80,000 accessions in the International Rice Genebank (IRG) are from India. These have provided vital traits to IRRI rice breeding programmes for disease and insect resistance, and salinity and submergence tolerance. Oryza nivara, a wild rice from Uttar Pradesh, was, until recently, the only known source of resistance to grassy stunt virus.

The previous work-plan (2001-2004) resulted in exchange of significant amount of rice germplasm. About 220 breeding lines from 22 sources were used in the rice breeding programme in India. Also, an efficient marker assisted selection system was developed for the successful transfer of a major gene. The results of previous work-plan demonstrated that modest N applications (40 kg/ha) increased upland rice productivity by over 40% on average.

Rice is the staple food of two thirds of Indians and source of income and employment for more than 100 million farming families in rural India. India is now the second largest producer of rice. During 2001-2002, a record 93.34 million tons of rice was produced. Area under hybrid rice increased from 200,000 ha in 2001 to 560,000 ha in 2004 and Hybrid Rice seed yields increased from 800 kg/ha in 2001 to 1200 kg/ha in 2004. This has been possible through innovative research and development of technologies by the Indian scientists and their adoption by the farmers.