GM crops and hybrid rice

August 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

The debate on GM crops rages on, driven more by political motivations than scientific reasoning. But even as that goes on, hybrid rice is providing greater yields and profitability to farmers:

The two new rice varieties were developed by scientists at the New Delhi-headquartered Indian Agricultural Research Institute charged with coming up with plants that would be more resistant to drought. The new varieties have sharply increased yields, about 5 tons to 6 tons per hectare (2.5 acres) compared with 3 tons to 4 tons per hectare.

The Pusa 1121 hybrid, which was introduced to farmers in 2003, makes up about 75% of India’s total basmati exports. Pusa 1509 was developed by crossing Pusa 1121 with a high-yielding non-basmati rice, said Ashok K. Singh, a rice project leader at IARI. Mr. Singh said 1509 takes just about 110 to 120 days to mature, compared with the 145 days needed by previous varieties, including 1121. “With drought-like conditions this year, we know what difference this variety will make,” says Mr. Satpal

Pusa 1509 was released to farmers last year, and Mr. Singh and other experts expect that it will gradually replace 1121 as the most-planted type of basmati.

China adopted hybrid rice in 1970s, while India made prominent use of it only three decades after. Let’s face it, private GM crops have terrible history in India, and companies like Monsanto are not exactly a popular lot. But with Indian domestic research still lagging behind and food security high on agenda, stopping scientific trials is certainly not the best move.

 

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