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Flood-proof rice variety brings hope
The SS -1 variety of paddy. Telegraph picture

Nagaon, Aug. 20: A new submergence-tolerant variety of rice that promises to ease the creases from the faces of Assam’s flood-hit farmers, has been introduced in this central Assam district this year.

Swarna sub-1, an updated version of India’s popular rice variety Swarna, can last for more than 15 days under water. It produces upto 3-3.5 tonnes per hectare when submerged, which can go up to six tonnes in normal conditions.

This variety was developed by the International Rice Research Institution (IRRI), in the Philippines, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under a collaborative programme.

The SS-1 was introduced in India for the first time in Andhra Pradesh last year. It has since become popular among the flood-hit farmers of that state and Orissa.

It has been introduced in Assam this year. An agriculture department source said 17,000kg seeds were collected for the state under the National Food Security Mission.

“Swarna sub-1 seeds were distributed among all the 13 districts of Assam under the National Food Security Mission. Of these, Kokrajhar agriculture department refused to accept the variety as it is new,” NFSM state unit nodal officer Rabin Chutia said.

“We hope the new variety will provide a good alternative for the farmers of flood-hit districts like Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Sonitpur, Nagaon and Morigaon. Generally farmers hesitate to go for a new variety, as outsider crops may not show good results in the climatic behaviour of the Northeast. But if this maiden initiative succeeds, it could bring an end to the flood-related loss of crops,” he added.

A source in the agriculture department said among the 12 districts where the SS-1 seeds had been sown, Nagaon’s performance was the best in terms of acceptance by farmers. Altogether 1,685kg SS-1 seeds have been distributed among 337 farmers whose lands are located in the district’s low-lying areas for the sali crop that is harvested in winter.

A source in the Nagaon agriculture department said the variety covered about 40 hectares of the district. Nagaon has 145,000 hectares of land under agriculture, of which 30 per cent is marked as flood-hit. The local rice varieties cannot survive submergence more than one or two days, as result of which farmers’ hard work goes to waste.

“It is significant that Swarna sub-1 survives longer under water but some research should be conducted to ascertain whether the region’s climate will suit the variety before it is popularised among the farmers of the region,” said a senior agriculture scientist of the Assam Agriculture University’s unit at Shillongoni in Nagaon.

Sources in the Nagaon agriculture department said new rice varieties were becoming popular among the new-generation farmers because of their higher yield.

According to Nagaon agriculture department records, a hybrid rice variety — Arise 6444 — yielded 15.3 tonnes of crop per hectare this year. The Swarna variety had yielded 10.5 tonnes per hectare during the last boro (summer) season.

“Normally, our farmers can expect a high yield of 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare in case of Arise 6444 because of soil condition, usage of uniform fertilizer and constant monitoring. As Swarna and its variety Swarna sub-1 are almost the same, we can expect the new variety to bring a big change to the existing cultivation style in the flood-hit belt,” a source in the department said.

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