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Drought-tolerant rice varieties are new frontiers to produce good yield with less water in Nepal

posted Oct 14, 2014, 1:02 AM by   [ updated Oct 19, 2014, 10:35 PM ]

Ram Baran Yadaw
Senior Scientist (Rice Breeder)
National Rice Research program, Hardinath

Rice is the main staple food in Nepal. Rainfed lowland rice is grown in nearly 49% of the total rice growing areas in the country. It is directly grown in bounded soil of Tars and the terrace lands of river basin areas within an altitude of 300-750 masl. Most rainfed lowland farmers are resource-poor and socially marginalized.

Rainfed rice depends on rainfall for its irrigation. Unfortunately, the area experiences irregular downpour. Rice is subjected to drought, which causes the decline in yield.  The productivity of rainfed rice is less than 2.5 ton /ha which makes it very difficult to meet the consumers' demands.  To address these challenges, IRRI/NARC-STRASA project, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), has been developing drought- and submergence-tolerant varieties for household food security and environmental security.  

In 2009, Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) for the suitable genotypes in drought- and submergence-tolerant varieties began at Baluwa village of Sirha district and Sahorwa village of Mahottari district through the STRASA project. Drought-tolerant rice varieties Sukha dhan 1, 2, 3 ,4 5, and 6 varieties were developed by IRRI and introduced through STRASA. These varieties have been tested in coordinated varietal trails as well as in farmers’ field trails over years at multi-locations. The mean yield obtained as 3500-4200 kg/ha under drought conditions.  Drought-tolerant varieties have been released for general cultivation. The improved rice genotypes of these varieties were distributed to the farmers through PVS. The painstaking work took eight years for selecting suitable rice varieties as Sukha dhan 1, 2, 3 ,4 5, and 6 for rainfed lowland. These are resistant to blast and bacterial leaf blight. They are also tolerant to termite and stem borer.  The success of Sukha dhan 1, 2, 3 ,4 5, and 6 rice varieties in rainfed lowland became popular in Nepal. Now, rainfed lowland farmers no longer experience low yield during drought. Drought-tolerant varieties are high yielding crop and could change the livelihood rainfed lowland farmers.