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Bangladesh releases 1st Biotech Rice variety

Industry News on Jan 2, 2018

The breakthrough was made possible using a new technique, Anthem Culture, to adapt a high-yielding Iranian rice variety for Bangladesh.

By Narayanan Suresh

In a major achievement, scientists in Bangladesh have got the regulatory permission to release the country’s first biotech rice, BRRIdhan-86, a variety developed from an Iranian rice using a novel biotech technique called Anther Culture.

Approved on December 28,2017, the BRRIdhan-86, developed by scientists at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), increases yield by 500 kg per hectare and makes it easy for mechanized harvesting.

Researchers at BRRI told United News of Bangladesh that stems of BRRIdhan-86, the variety that got release approval on December 28, are strong and stout and easy to reap by mechanical harvesters. This will come handy to farm owners, who have dearth of laborers and also find it difficult to use harvesters. The variety is also enriched with micronutrient, iron.

BRRI breeders told the news agency that the new variety, with half a tonne of extra yield potential per hectare over the country’s most produced rice variety BRRIdhan-28, is derived from Iranian rice variety Niamat through application of a biotech tool called anther culture.

Anther culture, applied for the first time in rice science in Bangladesh,

Anther culture is a technique by which the developing anthers at a precise and critical stage are excised aseptically from unopened flower bud and are cultured on a nutrient medium. Here the microspores within the cultured anther develop into callus tissue or embryoids that give rise to haplet plantlets either through organogenesis or embryogenesis.

Essentially in this process, the normal development and function of the pollen cell to become a male gamete is stopped and is diverted forcible to a new metabolic pathway for vegetative cell division.

The biotech division of BRRI, since its inception, has been working for generating rice breeding lines through different biotechnological tools. Its major thrust includes the varietal development activities for high yield, quality, stress tolerance and biofortification of rice.

Currently, it is mainly involved in rice tissue culture, genetic transformation, marker assisted selection (MAS), gene pyramiding, QTL identification and DNA finger printing of the modern rice varieties, advanced breeding lines and local land races.

BRRI scientists have also developed a new rice variety with the highest ever zinc (27.6 mg/kg) content. BRRIdhan-84 also got approval along with three more new rice varieties yesterday.

BRRI Research Director, Dr Tamal Lata Aditya said both the biotech rice and the zinc-rich rice would be good supplements to Boro-season mega variety BRRIdhan-28. Both of the new ones have higher yield potentials of varying degrees compared to BRRIdhan-28.

In 2013, Bangladesh released the world’s first biofortified zinc-rich rice variety BRRIdhan-62 with 19 mg/kg of the micronutrient. Since then countries scientists at BRRI and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) have, so far, developed six zinc-rich rice varieties with the yesterday’s one richest in zinc content.

BRRI scientists told UNB that BRRIdhan-84 is also moderately enriched with another key micronutrient, iron.

Zinc deficiency causes stunting, while iron deficiency is a leading cause of anaemia. More than one-third of under-five children in Bangladesh are stunted, while more than 43 percent women of reproductive age are anaemic.

The new varieties come at a time when two of the country’s most common rice varieties — BRRIdhan28 and BRRIdhan-29 released in 1994 — are losing potential due to ageing.

The prospect of higher rice yield through the release of the new varieties also comes against the backdrop of diminishing returns from the country’s rice fields.

A recent International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report says Bangladesh’s rice production growth slowed down to just 0.7 percent in five years (2012-16), whereas the growth was as high as 4.8 percent in the preceding five years (2007-11).