IRRI’s climate-smart rice reaches 10 million farmers in India

rice-Krista Johanson sxc.huAbout 10mn Indian rice farmers have been given access to climate-smart rice varieties, which includes flood-tolerant ones, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) announced

Trilochan Parida, farmer at Indian state of Odisha, said, “Swarna-Sub1 changed my life.” Floods ravaged Parida’s rice field every year. In 2008, however, after sowing climate-smart varieties, the farmer saw his rice rise back to life having been submerged for two weeks.

Swarna-Sub1 is a flood-tolerant rice variety developed by the Philippines-based IRRI. It was bred from a popular Indian variety, Swarna, which has been upgraded with SUB1, the gene for flood tolerance.

Climate-smart rice varieties are made to especially thrive in environments affected by flooding, drought, cold temperatures, and soils that are too salty or contain too much iron that leads to iron toxicity.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has further said that it will fund the third phase of the IRRI-led Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project with US$32.77mn for five more years. The STRASA project was initiated in 2007, with its first two phases funded with about US$20mn each.

Abdelbagi Ismail, IRRI scientist and STRASA project leader, said, “Under the past phases of the project, 16 climate-smart rice varieties tolerant of flood, drought, and salinity were released in various countries in South Asia; about 14 such varieties were released in sub-Saharan Africa. Several more are in the process of being released.”

In addition to improving varieties and distributing seeds, the STRASA project also trains farmers and scientists in producing good-quality seeds. The project has also influenced regional policies through enhanced cross-border sharing of information. This has helped facilitate the faster release of climate-smart varieties and the broader sharing of seeds in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, especially among poor farmers who are most affected by climate change.

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