ADAPTATION is the key to combating GW
MANILA, (AFP) - After decoding the rice genome, keeping one of the world's most important cereals productive despite chronic droughts is now a key focus of global research, the International Rice Research Institute says.
Philippines-based IRRI said a study this year concluded that dry spells, more than floods or typhoons, is the primary recurring threat in Asia , where around a fifth of all the rice-growing areas are drought-prone.
"Coping with recurrent drought is part of life for millions of Asia 's rural poor," the institute said in the latest edition of its journal Rice Today.
In 2004, widespread severe drought in much of Asia led not only to agricultural production losses of hundreds of millions of dollars, but also pushed millions of people into poverty, it added.
Since then, IRRI research has identified many rice varieties that not only produce high yields in good conditions but also 2-3 tonnes per hectare (2.47 acres) under conditions that are so dry many popular varieties return less than a tonne per hectare, it said.
Cross-breeding varieties has produced the first generation of so-called "aerobic rice" that grows on dry soil like maize, instead of on flooded paddies, it added. This rice was produced by crossing modern high-yielding varieties, that respond well to fertilizer, with traditional but low-yield ones that grow on dry soils.
Some lines are now being field-tested in drought-prone areas of South and South Asia , IRRI said.