India's non-GM "drought-resistant rice"
1.India's non-GM 'drought-resistant rice'
2.Mealybug menace affects Bt cotton
NOTE: Re: item 2, see also:
Thirsty Bt cotton devastated by water shortage, mealy bugs
Re: item 1, imagine the insane hype if this had been a GM rice, particularly given IRRI's involvement. For an in-depth profile of IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), including its close ties to GM corporations and long history of promotion of GMOs
To sign your organisation on to the petition against IRRI, go to
1.India's 'drought-resistant rice'
BBC News, 5 August 2009
Hazaribag, Jharkhand - A new variety of rice being tested in the fields of India's eastern Jharkhand state has the potential to change the face of Indian agriculture.
Sahbhagi dhan is drought-tolerant and can survive even if there are no rains for 12 days.
Rice is known to be a "thirsty crop" and a "water guzzler" and scientists have been working for years to develop a strain which will withstand a dry spell.
"A drought can occur anytime between 15 June and 15 September - the season in which rice is cultivated. Sometimes there can be gaps of five to 15 days between spells of rain," says Mukund Variar, agricultural scientist.
"If there's a dry spell when the seed is sown, or the flower is just emerging, even a five-day drought can be very dangerous for most varieties of rice. But Sahbhagi can tolerate a dry spell of 10 to 12 days."
Sahbhagi Dhan, which means rice developed through collaboration, is the result of 15 years of joint effort by scientists at the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Central Rainfed Upland Rice Research Station (CRURRS) in Hazaribag town.
Upland is a term used to define areas which are rain-deficient and nearly six million hectares of land in India falls in this category.
Farmer Baldev Kumar
Farmer Baldev Kumar is trying Sahbhagi for the first time
Agriculturists say the field trials of Sahbhagi, which began in 2006, have given positive results.
"We have already given it for testing to farmers in their fields. It's being tested in several villages and is proposed for release in the states of Jharkhand and Orissa. Hopefully it will be released in a couple of months," Mr Variar says.
In Singrawan village, farmer Bijay Kumar Singh shows me the patch of land where he is growing Sahbhagi. The seeds were planted a fortnight ago and little green shoots have sprung up everywhere.
"In this region, the most popular variety of rice so far has been Sadabahar. But last year I tried out Sahbhagi in a small patch of land. The yield was the best. The stem was the strongest. and it was good to eat too. It isn't the best, but it's better than the average in taste," he says.
Sadabahar gives excellent yield when the monsoon is good, but a dry spell results in total crop failure.
This year, on Mr Singh's recommendation seven farmers in his village are trying out the new variety.
"I planted the seeds about a fortnight ago. The crop was good last year, the produce was good too. I've heard it's tasty as well. Next year, we'll grow it in a much larger area," farmer Baldev Kumar says.
But poor rainfall is making him worried: "The plant has not been able to come up to its full length because there has been little rain this year."
Farmers here grow maize, corn, lentils and mustard. But rice is the main staple in the state and almost all farmers grow paddy.
Monsoons are at best erratic in Jharkhand, and the scanty rainfall this year has given rise to a drought-like situation in many parts of the state which is bad news for rice growers.
"It's a very challenging year. We're dependent on the monsoon completely. We've already lost 60 percent of our crop because of poor rainfall. If the rains come now, we would be able to take 30-35 percent of our paddy crop," says Mr Singh.
For farmers like him, Sahbhagi could be the answer to prayers.
Dr VD Shukla of CRURRS says Sahbhagi Dhan has "the capacity to take moisture from the deeper levels of soil. It is also tolerant to diseases and pests. Moreover, its stem is much more sturdy and doesn't bend, which means the farmer gets a better yield".
Adds Mr Variar: "Last year, the crop season was good with well distributed rainfall. But this year there are drought-like conditions so the farmer will be able to differentiate between the Sahbhagi and other varieties and find out which one is better."
The farmers agree.
Says Gulab Mahato of Lupung village, "There's no water even in the village pond this year. So how do we sow our crops? But with Sahbhagi, we can wait for another 15 days. Even if it rains a little bit, we will be able to get some rice."
2.Mealybug menace affects Bt Cotton farming in Amreli
Express News Service, August 6 2009
Making a case of large-scale Mealybug infestations damaging their Bt Cotton produce, farmers of Amreli district have approached the district administration to adopt measures for preventing the spread of the menace that has been on the rise for the last two years.
Jitendra Dabhi, District Agriculture Officer, Panchayat Department, Amreli, who had visited the infected crops on the request of the farmers few days ago, said: “Nearly 2,63,000 hectares of land in Amreli is under Bt Cotton, of which almost 10 per cent is infested with pests like Mealybug and Aphids. Pesticides like Neem oil can cure this menace that has particularly increased during the last two years. The administration is extending the farmers all possible help.”
Bhikhu Borisagar, a farmer of Pati village of Khambha taluka, said: “These infestations increase during the months of October and November. We have been facing this problem since the Kharif season of 2007. Now, these pests have spread to every Bt Cotton growing village in the district.”
Another farmer, Ravji Variya, of the same taluka, said, “Although, we are using the pesticides as advised by the scientists and the administration, these measures are clearly not enough to prevent further spread.”
M D Khanpara, Associate Research Scientist at Regional Cotton Research Station, Junagadh Agricultural University, has been aiding the farmers. He said, “We have been trying to control the pests for the last two years with good effect.”
Meanwhile, the All India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA), an industry association of the major companies engaged in agricultural bio-technology in India, continues to deny that there is any relation between Bt Cotton and pests like Mealybug.