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New Ashoka rice variety brings food security to millions.

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New Ashoka rice variety brings food security to millions.

Post by Sk on Fri Dec 25, 2015 8:41 am

Professor John Witcombe and Dr Daljit Singh Virk of the University’s School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography are responsible for developing the new strain, working with partners Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT), KRIBHCO Bhavan, NOIDA, New Delhi and Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi, Jharkand, India.
The new variety has rapidly become the most popular choice for growing in upland regions, which are unable to take advantage of modern rice strains developed for irrigated fertile lowlands. Its benefits are that it is both drought tolerant and gives good yields in good growing conditions.

The rice, Ashoka 200F, was developed for resource-poor farmers, using a new method of plant breeding. Instead of conventional plant breeding, when thousands of plants are crossed in the hope of finding beneficial traits, fewer plants are crossed, but carefully selected for desired characteristics, such as drought tolerance and a good yield. The pioneering plant breeding method, called Client Oriented Breeding also differs from conventional commercial development of new crop strains, as it involves the growers in the selection of plant traits which will be important to them, such as good taste, short cooking time and good straw for fodder.
“The figures are quite staggering,” explains Prof Witcombe. “We estimate that around a million smallholders are growing formally released Ashoka, bringing in a benefit of £12 million a year to their households. Added to that, many farmers are saving and sharing their own seeds.
Mr. Dalip Pani, a farmer from Orissa, India said:
“Ashoka varieties have transformed me from subsistence to surplus farmer. With the increased income from seed sale of Ashoka varieties I now own my own tractor and irrigation pumps. I now grow many crops in both seasons. My social status has been enhanced and I am now a nodal person for various government extension agencies.”
Mr. Rajinder Dhan, farmer and COB participant, Jharkhand, India said: “Farmers who adopt Ashoka varieties continue to grow them for their earlier maturity, excellent drought tolerance in the uplands and high grain quality. I use Ashoka rice for special occasions because of its good cooking quality.”

The Indian Council for Agricultural Research has now adopted the Client Oriented breeding as a mainstream approach for breeding new varieties of grain for drought-prone areas or where traditional approaches have not been rewarding
This work was recently shortlisted for the Best Cultural and Societal Impact Award in the University’s third annual Impact and Innovation Awards 2015 .
(Article adapted for easy understanding from )

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