Super Rice Available To Farmers By 2004

March 14, 2000

Manilla (Reuters) -- A new variety of high-yield rice which could raise global output by 15 percent should be ready for distribution to farmers by 2004, a senior officer at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said.

"It should help increase rice production by 10 to 15 percent a year because the increase in yield is about 20 percent," Gurdev Singh Khush, head of the plant breeding, genetics and biochemistry division of IRRI, said Monday.

The Philippines-based IRRI, the world's premier rice research institute, has been working to perfect the new rice plant type, dubbed "super rice" by some scientists, since 1990.

The thick-stalked variety, a product of conventional breeding, can yield 12 tons per hectare and has better resistance to disease and insects compared with current varieties, IRRI said.

The new rice plant has six to 10 stems, all of which will be productive with large panicles, each with 200 to 250 grains.

Current high-yield rice varieties have 20 to 25 stems but only 14 to 15 of them produce panicles, which are small, each containing about 100 grains, IRRI has said.

"We now have the plant but we need to review it for grain quality and (pest) resistance," Khush said.

Khush said IRRI expects to finish screening the new rice plant variety soon so that it can distribute the seeds for testing in Asia.

"By the year 2004, it should be available to most farmers for commercial planting," he said.

Suitable for Asia The new rice plant type is suitable for paddies in tropical and sub-tropical regions, Khush said.

Khush said the new rice plant should be suitable to about 80 percent of India's total rice growing area and half of China's ricelands.

The plant could also be grown on irrigated farms in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, he said. About 91 percent of the world's annual production of 535 million tons of unmilled rice is produced by Asian farmers.

India and China produce 55 percent of the world's total rice crop annually.

"What we have are bigger challenges for the future," Khush said, adding that the world has to produce 50 percent more rice in the next 25 to 30 years with more mouths to feed.

IRRI has estimated that by 2025, the number of people eating rice will rise from nearly three billion people today to 4.6 billion.

"That challenge has to be met by developing better varieties, better technology and this challenge has to be met with less land, less water, less chemicals," Khush said.

He said scientists at IRRI, which is based in Los Banos town near Manila, are now presently conducting experiments using biotechnology for the development of high yielding and hardy rice varieties.

Genetically modified rice which is resistant to the bacterial blight disease, one of the major causes of crop losses in Asia, is currently being tested, Khush said.

Scientists at IRRI have said 10 percent of annual rice production is lost to pest infestation.

Besides increasing the yields, Khush said IRRI scientists are currently working on more palatable and nutritious food.

"We need to produce rice which has more iron content, zinc content or Vitamin A so that it will have more nutritional value," he said.

Khush said between 35 and 70 percent of calories consumed by Asians come from rice.


Return to the home page of Better Foods