Researchers from Pakistan and China are nearing a breakthrough in the development of a hybrid version of Basmati rice that will have an average per acre yield of 80 maunds (40 kilograms) and average grain length of 8 mm or above.
Longping High-Tech Industries from China and Pakistan’s Guard Agriculture Research and Services Private Ltd (Guard Agri) have been collaborating to produce a high-yield hybrid variety of rice in the past few years.
Speaking to the economic and agriculture journalist associations at the company’s head office, Chief Executive Guard Agri, Shahzad Ali Malik said:
Our scientists in collaboration with their Chinese counterparts have developed 13 CMS (cytoplasmic male sterility) lines out of which one variety is giving 75 maunds per acres with the average grain length of 7 mm, slightly short of our targeted 80 maunds/acre.
He added that the experts in 2014 had been given the goal to develop a variety that would be salinity, heat and drought-resistant.
Officials at Guard Agri said that ever since hybrid rice was introduced in Sindh, the rice farmers had seen their incomes doubled due to the increased yield of rice as compared to traditional varieties.
Mentioning the benefits of hybrid rice, Malik said:
Due to early maturing hybrid rice crop, timely sowing of Rabi crops is ensured as crops cultivated on time result in a significant increase in per acre yield which consequently increases farmers’ income, while having a shorter maturity period.
Malik underlined the need to bring new hybrid rice as existing rice varieties were giving low yields. He said:
The low rice yields do not match with the increasing cost of inputs and because of increasing cost Pakistan is becoming noncompetitive in the international market.
He reiterated that severe issues like water shortage could be managed by the adoption of hybrid rice. The company is also introducing combined harvesters, rice transplanters, and other ways on a rental basis to boost mechanization in this sector.
To a query, he said there was a huge potential in trading with Iran, the second-largest market of Basmati rice after Saudi Arabia, and the country needed to safeguard the rice exporters. He added that “Pakistan does not have any cash swap treaty with Iran, and the exporters have proposed barter trade with Iran,”.
Pakistan might hopefully enter a barter agreement with Iran whereby we would trade Pakistani rice against liquefied petroleum gas from Iran, he further told.