Of Rice and Men: Cultivating the Next Green Revolution

Post date: Sep 7, 2017 8:29:40 AM

by Alec Regino, The McGIll International Review

Yogendra Sahoo makes all of his income from cultivating rice in his 5-acre farm in the Jajpur District of Odisha, India. His village is situated a bit above the coast, and every year Sahoo’s crops face rain, water scarcity, and damage from submergence. In 2015, he was the first farmer in his village to grow BINA Dhan 11, a submergence-tolerant rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Philippines. While most farmers faced a yield of 1,700 kg per acre for different varieties, Sahoo gained 1,200 kg per half an acre.

“The farmers who heard about the performance of this variety came to me and asked for seeds for the next kharif season,” Sahoo says. “More than 20 farmers from other villages also obtained the seeds from me.”

Sahoo’s good fortune came from extensive research and testing from IRRI’s STRASA(Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia) Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by Abdelbagi Ismail, Head of the Genetics and Biotechnology division at IRRI. IRRI led the charge during the first Green Revolution in the 1960s by developing IR8, a rice variety that saved the developing world from a food insecurity disaster. Around this time, China had suffered from a famine caused by the Great Leap Forward, and Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb warned of mass starvation in the 70s and onwards due to overpopulation. (Read full story here.)

IRRI’s STRASA Project aims to create rice varieties that can survive in various types of stress. (from irri.org)