Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bangladesh resistant rice may not fill food gap

Syful Islam in AlertNet: Bangladesh is about to release five new drought- and salt-tolerant rice varieties to help farmers cope with rising salinity and more frequent droughts - but some scientists and researchers say the yields are little better than those of current types and will not be sufficient to meet rising demand in the face of climate change. Climate scientist Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, executive director of the Centre for Global Change, told AlertNet Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in rice production but needs urgently to look ahead to 2040-2050 when climate change will have a greater impact on food production and when ensuring food security, particularly for the country’s poorest, will be more difficult.

Ahmed said Bangladesh needs to adopt a long-term food plan very soon, and it must ensure, among other things, that no more arable land is taken for industrialisation or urbanisation. That will be a challenge as urbanisation continues in the country, including of farmers displaced by climate impacts and pushed into Bangladesh’s cities.

Of the five new rice varieties to be released soon by scientists at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), four are high-yielding and the fifth is a hybrid. They will increase overall rice output by three million tonnes a year if they are widely adopted, the BRRI director general told reporters. The research institute has released 61 high-yielding modern varieties of rice since 1970, and 80 percent of the country’s rice-growing land is currently cultivated with BRRI-developed varieties.

Extreme drought and the contamination of paddy fields by salty water as a result of flash floods and storm surges have become very common in this low-lying country, one of those most severely affected by climate change.

Shot of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute by Md. Murshed Akram Tareq, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version

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