Best Viewed in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome
Prof EA Siddiq
  • One of the eminent scholars of our time, Padma Shri Prof. Siddiq writes for RKMP on "Rice Research in India" covering various aspects. This comprehensive paper covers different facets of rice research carried out in India since Independence. While going through this paper, we hope that you will experience the transformation that the country has seen in last five decades.
  • Welcome to the journey of Indian rice research!

The era of food deficiency and early initiatives for accelerated advance of rice production

PrintPrintSend to friendSend to friend

The era of food deficiency and early initiatives for accelerated advance of rice production

      Rice research in India is one hundred year old. Aiming at enhanced productivity and stability against stresses, early research efforts had been confined to introduction of exotic varieties, evolution of varieties through pureline selection in landraces well adapted to various growing environments and crossbreeding mainly for improvement of grain quality and resistance to diseases like blast, besides optimization of crop production packages giving emphasis to cultural management. Significance of such early efforts is visible from the existence of exotic introductions like China 103a and Ch 988 still in cultivation in the hill ecologies of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pardesh, native varieties like SR 26B, FR 13A, Nonasail, Nonobokhra, Manoharsali, Latisail, N22, TKM 1 and many more in pureline forms filling varietal technology gaps in handicapped ecologies and as valuable donor source in breeding for such environments, highly prized speciality rices like Basmati 370, Type 3,Type 9, Taraori Basmati, Jeerha Samba, Kolamba etc, still ruling with no alternative to replace them and PTB33, Co29, W1263 (Eswarakora), TKM6 etc, still remaining the most sought after sources of resistance to rice pests. It was the launch of the FAO sponsored indicia-japonica Hybridization Programme in 1950 that marked the beginning of serious and systematic rice improvement research in India, while the Japanese method of rice cultivation characterized by line planting, enhanced use of chemical fertilizer nutrients and judicious water management that proved a forerunner to the development later of productive package of cultivation practices for the high yielding semi-dwarf varieties introduced in the mid sixties. The package became popular and found wide adoption by farmers to cover an area of 1.32 million ha in a short span of time. The indica-japonica hybridization programme was conceived and implemented when direct introduction of temperate japonica varieties failed under tropical conditions, with the objective of recombining adaptability and acceptable consumer quality of indica rices with fertilizer responsiveness and relatively non-lodging habit of japonica varieties. The massive hybridization programme involving South and South Asian countires including India unfortunately failed to yield desired results except for two varieties of commercial success viz ADT 27, which proved an ideal short duration variety for Kuruvai season in the Cauveri Delta of Tamil Nadu and Mahsuri, identified in Malaysia under this programme and introduced later in India as a medium late, short slender grain variety ideally suited to long kharif season and rainfed shallow lowland conditions in the traditional rice belt. Aside proving a success as direct introduction in rainfed lowland ecologies, it was an excellent donor source for adaptability to rainfed lowland environments as well as for superior grain and cooking quality. Some of the popular varieties like BPT 5204, (Samba Mahsuri), Sona Mahsuri, Swarna etc., are from crosses involving Mahsuri as the donor. Persistent spikelet sterility even after many successively selfed generations of indica-japonica crosses, attributed later to cryptic structural differences at genome level between the two subspecies and hence low recombination frequency and skewed segregation towards parental genomes was the reason for the disappointing outcome. Nevertheless, this effort in a way convinced breeders that non-lodging plant habit and response to higher doses of fertilizer are basic to raise the genetic yield level. This fact was well demonstrated long before the advent of the semi-dwarf variety Taichung (Native) 1, through the CRRI evolved non-lodging semitall variety CR 1014 form the cross between the indica variety T-90 and the stiff strawed javanica (tropical japonica) variety Urang Urangan. The superfine grain variety capable of yielding 4.0t/ha under submerged condition is still popular with farmers in semi-deep water ecologies of eastern states and Andhra Pradesh. Finding that japonicas bred for relatively mild temperate conditions in Taiwan would be a success in tropics, India introduced highly productive varieties such as Taichung 65, Tainan 3, Kaohsiung 18 respectively in Karnataka, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. Productivity as well as resistancewise against the then serious bacterial leaf blight disease, though they were scoring over the simultaneously introduced the first ever semidwarf high yielding indica variety Taichung (Native) 1, again from Taiwan they disappeared in a few years on account of their sticky cooking quality not acceptable to Indian consumers. Introduction of Taichung (Native) 1 {T(N)1} was truly the beginning of the era of high yielding varieties in India and many South and South Asian countries. It was the first and major landmark varietal technology that breached the centuries long yield barrier in rice. The short stiff strawed variety responding admirably well to high doses of fertilizer found wide adoption all over. Photo-insensitivity and short maturity characteristic to it facilitated intensification and diversification of cropping system and thereby the upward growth of rice production and productivity. Nevertheless, it could not survive for long on account of its high susceptibility to the killer bacterial leaf blight disease. While area under it was rapidly declining as a result, the miracle yielder IR8, bred at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), The Philippines and the India developed Jaya possessing higher tolerance to the diseases helped sustain the high growth trend set by T (N) 1. Extensive and rapid adoption of these two varieties truly heralded the country’s Green Revolution. In a short span of 15 years since their introduction, they along with a few other varieties could cover large area and raise thereby rice production by 68% culminating in the country attaining self-sufficiency in rice. Such an impressive advance in production had been possible because of a slew of developmental activities as well besides the high yielding varietal technology perse contribution of which, no doubt, is the maximum. Among them, the systems and strategies evolved for coordination of need based material generation and intensive evaluation of so generated material for identification of the promising and areas of adaption, for organized production and supply of quality seed and reaching out the technology to the targeted clientele are important. The All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project (AICRIP) launched coinciding with the introduction of the high yielding varieties in the mid sixties, is a unique experiment in applied breeding. The system is so designed for bringing all rice researchers and rice research centers under one umbrella for collectively planning breeding priorities and generation of breeding material accordingly, coordinating evaluation of so generated material and deciding rationally what and where to be recommended for commercial planting. Conceptually, the underlying strategy of rapid identification of test entries for a given situation is based on the scientific principle that multi location evaluation for a few seasons would help generate same kind of data for understanding genotype X environment interaction as that of earlier practiced limited location testing for many seasons/years for precisely identifying varieties of general and specific adaptability. The coordinated testing of material in exclusive ecology/problem specific nurseries adopting a 3-tier system over more than 100 test locations including stress specific hot spots, has enabled the country in the last 45 years evolve over 1000 high yielding varieties/hybrids for different rice ecologies with complete passport information on yield and accessory characteristics, which include duration, response to biotic/abiotic stresses, cooking and nutritive quality and areas of adaption. They comprise 483 (51.0%) for irrigated, and 233 (24.6%) for rainfed lowland and 131 (13.8 %) for rainfed upland ecologies. The provision in the system to evaluate as well the international rice nurseries of IRRI on a regular basis facilitates access to and use exotic germplasm of value for either direct introduction or use as donor sources in breeding. Many high yielding, multiple pest resistant and better grain quality varieties like IR36, IR60, IR66, IR70, IR72 etc have come through these nurseries, besides hundreds of valuable germplasm that continue to add strength to our breeding research. It was the extensive adoption of the country developed along with IRRI introduced high yielding varieties that brought in very much needed stability and incremental growth in rice production and productivity even in years of erratic monsoon. Yet another role, for which AICRIP is credited with is its conceptualization, formulation and coordination of research networks on problems of national importance that warranted immediate, focused, aggressive and product oriented research involving all relevant institutions and scientists as partners. Two success stories worth mentioning are development of (i) high yielding basmati rice and (ii) hybrid rice technology. Basmati rice of the Indian subcontinent is the highly prized and most sought after speciality rice in the domestic as well as international markets. Despite three to four times higher price offered to the traditional basmati rices, they could not attract farmers since the introduction of high yielding semidwarf non-basmati varieties, as net return from the later was much higher. It was in the early 1970s a research programme fashioned in a network mode involving rice research centers in the traditional basmati growing states was launched with the objective of evolving higher yielding dwarf basmati varieties. In this mission, Indian Agricultural Research Institute at Delhi succeeded after 23 year long research efforts in evolving the World’s first high yielding semi dwarf basmati variety Pusa Basmati 1. Considered widely as the 20th century’s landmark achievement along with IRRI bred miracle variety IR8 and hybrid rice of China, it yields about two times higher than the traditional tall statured basmati varieties such as Basmati 370 and Taroari Basmati, with no compromise on basmati quality. Since its release in 1995, it continues to account for 40-60% of the basmati rice production as a result has enabled the country increase the volume of basmati export from 67000 tonnes in 1978-79 to 1.18 million tonnes by 2007-08 valued at Rs. 32 crores and Rs. 4334 crores respectively. Aside its own place of importance in production and export, it is proving the ideal and only plant type and quality donor cum agronomic base for development of still more higher yielding and early maturing basmati quality varieties like Pusa sugandh 3 , Pusa sugandh 4, Pusa sugandh 5, Pusa 1401 etc, and the first Basmati hybrid Pusa RH 10. Ever since the advent of the high yielding semi dwarf varieties, rice scientists world over have been looking for second technological breakthrough capable of breaching the yield level of the semi dwarf varieties. It goes to the credit of Chinese breeders, who could succeed in this pursuit through development and commercial planting of cytoplasmic male sterility based hybrid rice since late 1970s. In the next 12 years, over 55% (18 mill. ha) of the rice area in China was planted to hybrid rice, to take full advantage of one ton yield edge per hectare possible through them. Today over 85% of the rice area in China is planted to hybrids, which add about 25 million tonnes to the national rice production and thereby transforming the once rice deficit nation into a surplus state. The impact of it is all the more evident from China converting in the recent years about two million hectares of prime rice area for planting high value commercial crops. Convinced of the China’s success story of hybrid rice technology, India revived its interest on and accelerated hybrid breeding research since early 1990s almost 15 years after China started harvesting the benefits of hybrid rice. The network approach involving 10 major rice research centres including the Coordinating Centre Directorate of Rice Research, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Central Rice Research Institute and seven centres under the State Agricultural Universities, each assigned with specific research responsibility, has led to the development and release of five first generation hybrids by 1995. So early success was attributable to improved male sterile lines ideally adapted to typical tropical conditions like India’s made available by IRRI and the experience in hybrid breeding and hybrid seed production shared by China. Incidentally, the IRRI sourced male sterile line IR 58025A, which is widely used all over Asia is based on the India bred Pusa 167. Today, as many as 50 hybrids are commercially planted and of them 80% are from the private sector and 90% of the hybrid seed requirement is met by it only. Thanks to the liberal national policy in this regard that promoted active involvement of private sector in hybrid breeding and hybrid seed production and supply. The hybrids as good as China’s in yield advantage of about a ton per hectare, could not, however, make same kind of impact in terms of pace and extent of adoption and additional production. As against China, where over 15 million hectares could be brought under hybrid rice in just 12 years, India could not as yet cross even 1.5 million hectare mark in a comparable period. Tracing of reasons for the disappointingly slow spread of the technology, reveals lack of medium and medium late duration hybrids suiting the largest kharif area in the traditional rice growing states, inconsistency in yield performance, less acceptable cooking quality and vulnerability to majority of rice pests as important factors. The new generation hybrids evolved using improved parental lines are however free from many of the deficiencies the first and second generation hybrids were suffering from. It is hoped that many of such hybrids now in pipeline would accelerate the pace of adoption of the technology in the coming years and help achieve thereby the envisaged future coverage and contribution to production advance. Among the recently released hybrids Pusa RH 10 is the first basmati quality hybrid with yield advantage exceeding 30% over Pusa Basmati-1, again a product of several years , as its development required both the parental lines to be of basmati quality. In the absence of restorer gene(s) in the basmati germplasm, development of pollinator lines proved all the more challenging and time consuming. Thus, the achievement can be regarded as yet another landmark in the history of rice breeding. It is very often remarked knowingly or unknowingly by many that, what Indian scientists had contributed to rice revolution is not much beyond the introduction of Taiwanese bred T (N) 1 and IRRI evolved IR8. Sadly, they do not know how much of Indian scientists’ expertise and efforts had gone into sustaining the yield gains achieved through these varieties in the face of many yield depressing factors, in shaping them to suit different rice ecologies and in meeting the diverse consumer preferences. But for such progressive improvement and selection made under the changing climate, neither IR8 nor Jaya and many more that followed them could have survived. To briefly highlight the significant contributions of Indian scientists in making rice to the choice and preference of growers and consumers, the following should suffice: The miracle yielders bred to ideally suit relatively risk-free irrigated ecology and medium duration seasons, were highly susceptible to a variety of insect pests and pathogens they brought along. In India, rice is grown under very diverse agroecologies such as rainfed lowlands, rainfed uplands, deepwater areas, hills, saline/alkaline soils, temperature extremes etc. each characterized by one or more yield depressing stresses, besides the relatively risk free irrigated ecosystem.

File Courtesy: 
Prof E.A.Siddiq
Copy rights | Disclaimer | RKMP Policies