To boost export prospects and reduce pesticide usage, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has this kharif season distributed seeds of three new varieties of basmati rice, which possess inbuilt resistance to bacterial blight and blast diseases.
IARI, Pusa, Delhi, an institute affiliated to the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, has supplied seeds to farmers of improved PB1847, PB1885 and PB1886 rice varieties, in which two genes have been inserted, which could withstand the attack of bacterial blight and blast diseases that adversely impact the crop yield.
According to AK Singh, director, IARI, three varieties would gradually replace the existing basmati rice varieties PB1121, PB1509 and PB6, which are cultivated in more than 90% of the about 2 million hectares of aromatic and long-grain rice-grown area.
“Existing key varieties over the years have developed resistance to bacterial blight and blast diseases, leading to excessive use of pesticides by farmers, thus increasing reports of rejection of export consignments due to presence of pesticide residue,” Singh told FE.
He said field trials of new varieties were conducted at select farmers’ fields last year and after getting encouraging results, the seeds for new varieties have been given to farmers for further multiplication this kharif season in key growing areas of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
Scientists say that for managing bacterial blight disease and blast, farmers use antibiotics and fungicides, which is not a sustainable approach. There are several instances of consignments of India’s basmati rice being rejected by importing countries due to presence of pesticide residue in the crop.
While the high-yielding and larger-grained PB1121 variety was certified as basmati rice in 2008, the PB1509, which takes fewer weeks to mature, was released in 2013. PB6 was released in 2008.
The PB1121 and PB1509 varieties have a share of 70% in India’s basmati rice exports.
“Newly-introduced basmati rice varieties are expected to hugely reduce pesticide consumption and improve the quality of rice,” Vijay Setia, former president of the All India Rice Exporters Association and an exporter, said.
Basmati rice exporters in association with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Development Authority, have initiated outreach programmes to optimise use of pesticides by farmers.
India exported 3.9 million tonne of Basmati rice worth $ 3.54 billion in 2021-22. Shipments to the top 10 countries — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, the US, Yemen, Kuwait, the UK, Oman and Qatar have a share of more than 81% in India’s volume of exports of basmati rice.
According to an analysis by IARI of the economic value accrued because of basmati rice, `1.66 trillion worth of export earnings between 2010 and 2019 were from the shipments of PB1121 and PB1509 rice varieties, while domestic sales were to the tune of `51,501 crore in the same period.
After deducting the cost of production, the IARI assessment has stated that `1.34 trillion has been accrued as earnings to an estimated 1 million farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, who grow two varieties of aromatic and long-grained rice.
In the global trade of basmati rice, India has a share of around 85%, while the rest is with Pakistan.