Ministry Activities throughout January 2013

Ministry of Agriculture

More climate-smart rice seeds to reach farmers this year

Bangladesh will introduce four more stress-tolerant rice seeds this year -- two saline-tolerant and two submergence-tolerant -- to scale up production by fighting the effects of climate change. Anwar Faruque, director general of the seed wing of the agriculture ministry said that the seeds will make us more prepared to face the impact of climate change.

 The seeds will enter the existing basket of 11 climate-smart rice seeds developed in the last six years as Bangladesh is heavily vulnerable to climate change. Most of these varieties having capacity to fight salinity, drought and submerged condition have started reaching the farmers through government and international agencies such as International Rice Research Institute.

Of the four stress-tolerant seeds, two saline-resistant high-yielding varieties came from Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (Bina) has come up with the rest two submergence-resistant seeds in a bid to cushion growers from crop losses due to floods during the aman season.

 HelalUddin Ahmed, BRRI's chief scientific officer and head of plant breeding division, said the research institute has developed the seeds targeting the boro season in southern Bangladesh. He also added that the two saline-resilient seeds, which are expected to be named BRRI Dhan 61 and 62, have up to 6.5 tonnes of yield potential per hectare at normal condition.Yields will be four tonnes each hectare under saline condition.

 This will help farmers grow rice during the boro season in the south, where 10 lakh hectares of farmland remain unused during the dry season due to salinity intrusion. In February, salinity reaches its peak in the southern coastal region and starts declining with the advent of monsoon, according to agriculturists.The BRRI has earlier developed four saline-resistant rice seeds -- BRRI Dhan-47, 53, 54 and 55.

 But the new ones will have less shattering (fall of grains before being ripe) rate compared to BRRI Dhan-47, said Ahmed of BRRI. Bina earlier introduced two saline-resistant seeds -- Bina Dhan-8 and Bina Dhan-10 that have already started going to the farmers' field. Bina Director (research) MA Salam said that the newly developed submergence-tolerant rice seeds will mature early, within 115-125 days, while the normal rate is 140-160 days.

 Mr. Salam said that the new seeds will also have the potential to withstand 20-25 days in submerged condition. These seeds, which are likely to be named Bina Dhan-11 and Bina Dhan-12, will yield 4.5 tonnes to 5.5 tonnes per hectare. All these newly developed rice seeds have been placed at the technical committee of the National Seed Board for approval.

 Mr. Faruque, the seed wing DG said that they expect to release these seeds this year. He also said that of the already released stress-smart seeds, crop performance of the two submergence-tolerant seeds -- BRRI Dhan-51 and 52 -- are good and Bina Dhan-8 also got popularity among farmers in the south. WaisKabir, executive director of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, said new seeds of wheat, pulses and oilseeds will also be released in 2013.

 Mr. Kabir, the head of the technical committee of the National Seed Board, cited that all are climate change-resilient crops. At the same time, attention will be given to develop crops to bring down farmers' production cost," said Kabir. He also added that these will give Bangladeshis the comfort in rice production. Our wheat output will also rise due to the new varieties. Bangladesh is almost self-sufficient in rice production. The country bagged 3.38 croretonnes of rice in fiscal 2011-12, up from 3.35 croretonnes the previous year -- enough to feed its 15 crore population.

 Govt opens up bio-pesticide business

 The government has started certifying bio-pesticides -- the first move that opens scope for businesses to market environment-friendly pest control agents to farmers for growing safe vegetables and fruits.

 Two types of pheromones and a bio-pesticide received the green light from the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). NazmulAhsan, DAE's pesticide regulation officer, said  on 23 January 2013 that more biological control agents will be registered by the middle of this year, He also added that they could not allow bio-pesticides to be marketed because there was no legal provision.statingthatthe rules have been amended and now have started approving bio-pesticides for sale to farmers.

 Farmers and consumers will benefit from the increased use of bio-pesticides. DAE's Plant Protection Wing, where Ahsan works, has received applications for registration of nine types of biological control agents. Pesticides Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC), a government-formed panel, approved the items last month.

 Local tea-giant Isphani Ltd got clearance for selling two types of pheromones, which help control pest in cucurbit, mango and guava, the company said. Russel IPM, a UK-based bio-pesticide maker, was also approved for marketing a bio-pesticide that curbs insects of brinjal, chilli, bean and tomato, according to an official of Russel IPM.

 Bio-pesticides came as an alternative to chemical pesticides. The excessive use of chemical pesticides over a long period has deepened health-hazard worries.The use of chemical pesticides trebled to 45,000 tonnes/kilolitres since 2000, spurred by credit-based sales by firms and farmers' urge to protect their crops from pest attacks. The bulk of chemical pesticides are used on rice, but the intensity of use is higher in vegetables, such as eggplants.

 Companies earlier could not market and sell bio-pesticide commercially in the absence of registration, said Syed NurulAlam, head of Entomology Division of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). The sales of bio-pesticides will open a new horizon for increased cultivation of toxicity-free vegetables, he said. Ispahani Ltd could not launch promotional activities in the absence of registration for pheromones, said Ashraf Uddin Ahmed, the company's business development manager.

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