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K-State Today

August 7, 2014

Plant pathology lecture Aug. 7

Submitted by Stephanie Alvord-Albanese

Uma Singh will present the plant pathology department's special seminar, "Enhancing and Stabilizing Rice Productivity in South Asia: Climate-resilient rice varieties," from 2-3 p.m. Aug. 7 in 1018 Throckmorton Hall.

Singh is a senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute, Division of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology and South Asia regional coordinator of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation mega project, "Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia."

Lecture abstract:

Rice is a staple food for more than half of the humanity. More than 90 percent of the world's rice is produced and consumed in Asia. South Asia constitutes 37 percent of total rice area, half of that is rainfed. Rainfed rice areas are characterized by low and fragile rice productivity, low input use & high poverty level. They frequently suffer from abiotic stresses like flood, drought and/or soil salinity. Out of 45.01 million ha rice area in India 5.36, 7.18 and 3.79 million ha are frequently affected by flood, drought and soil salinity, respectively. Almost 60 percent geographical area in Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, is potentially prone to flooding. Almost 1 million ha area is affected by coastal salinity. About 12 million ha of rice production area in South Asia is prone to flash flooding resulting in severe yield losses.

International Rice Research Institute identified and characterized flood tolerance gene, SUB1A, and transferred the same to six mega rice varieties from South and South-East Asia using marker-assisted backcrossing. Four of these (Swarna-Sub1, Samba Mahsuri-Sub1, Ciherang-Sub1 and BR11-Sub1) are recently released for commercial use in South Asia. Varieties carrying the SUB1 gene had the same agronomic, yield and quality traits as their non-Sub1 counterparts when grown under non-flooded conditions, but showed yield advantages of 1 to more than 3 t ha-1 after complete submergence for various durations at farmers' fields.

With financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, International Rice Research Institute launched the project, "Stress tolerance rice for Africa and South Asia" in October 2007. By sharing the ownership and aligning the project objectives with the national priorities of target countries, the project developed an innovative model system which addressed the entire seed chain including seed policy issues for rapid out scaling of stress tolerant rice varieties in South Asia. In this model International Rice Research Institute played a catalytic but central role and the entire work was carried out by national partners with strong physical, financial and policy support from national systems. Due to all these efforts, catalysed by the project, Sub1 varieties (mainly Swarna-Sub1 and BR11-Sub1), which were released in 2009/2010 have been spreading at an unprecedented speed and in 2013 were grown by more than 5 million farmers covering approximately 2.5 million hectares of rice area in South Asia.