Vol. 5 Num 1045 Fri. May 11, 2007  

Environment friendly HYV paddy can ensure food security

The society and civilization of human beings are about eight thousand years old. We have observed great changes in religion, dress, habitat as well as culture but without any significant ones in food habits. For example, rice or paddy still occupies a great part in our life style as a means of satiating hunger. Paddy is the oldest staple crop in Bangladesh and still regarded as the principal food of the people here.

But it is a matter of great regret that Bangladesh has to import six lac tons of rice every year now to meet the household demand. In the sixties of the last century, multifarious laudable attempts were taken both at government and private levels. The attempts included planned irrigation, high quality seeds, insecticide, fertilizer and mechanisation of agriculture. But it was very difficult to keep pace with population increase. Although the growth rate of population has reduced to 2 per cent, the production of agricultural crops have failed to mitigate the hunger of millions of people. According to the Bureau of Statistics of Bangladesh, in the fiscal year 2004-2005 about five lac tons of rice has been imported from Thailand, America, Australia and other countries under both government and private initiative to meet the demand.

It needs to be mentioned that many attempts have been taken over a long period to increase the production of rice. In this regard tireless efforts of the paddy researchers and officials of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) deserve well-certified appreciation.

Here we can refer to the production of a Boro paddy which has been grown on experimental basis at the Bashundhara agricultural farm in Gazipur. A Sichuan based research centre of agricultural institution of China had expressed interest for marketing its high yielding paddy seeds in Bangladesh. This private agricultural institution has good relation with the professors and scientists of the agri-university of their country (China). In all consideration, marketing of a new seed in a new country is really tough. So, a proposal was raised to the chairman of Bashundhara group in this connection. In turn, the Chinese agro-seed institution also received some from the Bashundhara group. It was decided that steps be been taken to cultivate this high-yielding paddy seed in the light of direct experience so that we can get over all conception about this miracle seed.

If it is found that this seed can be cultivated/grown here without any harm/problem, then institution for producing such kind of seed will be set up in Bangladesh.

Mainly for two reasons this very high-yielding paddy-seed ufasi has been chosen on experimental basis cultivation. First, the Sichuan province of China, the birth place of this seed/paddy, has great similarity with Bangladesh in weather or climate. On the other hand, the composition of soil and geographical characteristics are also very much similar. As a result, the local entrepreneurs have begun to believe firmly about the success of cultivation of this paddy. The belief of the seed inventors/providers was that this seed could produce 32 to 40 maund rice per bigha. This information worked as a great incentive to test such new paddy seed.

Any bad omen could not create any drawback for this 140-day paddy. Conventional outlook or prejudice could not create any barrier either. The extreme controversy of the occidental and the oriental Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) could not create any impact otherwise on the cultivation of this paddy. Now it has become clear that it is a paddy of new trend with very high yielding capacity.

We had been given four types of Chinese paddy seeds either for marketing or experimental cultivation. For example: a) SL 1-D, b) S1 2-C, c) SL-3C and d) SL-4-D. These seeds required 30 to 35 days to sprout. Very satisfactory result was found in case of sprouting; 95 per cent of the used seeds sprouted very easily. However, proper care, nourishment and supervision were provided at rudimentary stage, but no particular or sophisticated prescription was felt necessary. Rather, the care-nourishment that the traditional indigenous paddy saplings receive at the rudimentary stage was equally applicable for this foreign origin seeds.

For experiment 24.50 kg Chinese paddy saplings were planted per hectare. At the time of final cultivation and physical growth, the worst adversity came from the frequent electricity failure of Kaliakoire upazila. Because of such unprecedented power failure, the field of the planted saplings became severely cleft for want of irrigation. But the instruction was that the paddy field in no way could be made waterless, rather two months from the time of plantation at least one and half inches water should always stand in the field.

Are these any reasons behind not welcoming this sort of new China born paddy seed in Bangladesh? The most popular two types of paddy that we grow in Bangladesh are BR-29 and BR-28. It has been published in a magazine "Adhunik Dhaner Chas -- the Cultivation of Modern Rice" by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) that the average production of BR-29 is 7.5 metric tons per hectare and the yield of BR-28 is 5.00 metric tons. But on the other hand, from our recent experience we have come to see that the high-yielding Chinese paddy planted on the soil of Kaliakoir has produced 9 metric tons of rice per hectare.

This Chinese paddy will occupy the land of farmers for 140 days in total, while the local high-yielding paddy BR-29 needs at least 160 days. The land will not lose its fertility because of prominence of using organic fertilizer. The same paddy can be cultivated year after year without any sign of danger.

This new variety of Chinese paddy will require less food (pure nitrogen) and less insecticide and is less costly in matters of weeds. The application of bio-fertilizer in cultivating this paddy is very important. Because of the use of bio-fertilizer, the phosphorus, potassium of the soil will increase and it will increase the anti-body resistance of crop. The Chinese paddy which can be produced during the season of boro is of medium structure, white in colour and light in weight. In this consideration it may appear similar to BR-29 and BR-28 in nature. The formal production of this paddy was launched in China in 2004. So, it can be said that we have rather taken a decision to keep pace with the inventor country itself!

The experimental land for cultivation was far away from Dhaka. There are lots of brick-fields. If the sky over that land is not washed by rain, it always remains covered with dust or dark cloud. Despite that, it is our firm conviction that this new paddy has assimilated and overcome this climatic barrier.

At the time of plantation, firstly we had failed to follow the total indication thoroughly. The finishing time of plantation of the boro crops was from mid November to 30 November. But because of unavoidable reasons we started our programme just after one month. The density of plantation was 19cmX16cm. After visiting the plot, the seed inventor/provider institution proposed that if the average density was 22cm X 19cm, it would be possible to produce 11 metric tons of rice per hectare!

Although we live in a precarious condition in matters of food security, we tend to go to the remote past when the people were rich in agro-based foods, and lament. But the system of cultivation of that ancient Bangla can never be a model or a strategy to overcome the crisis we face now, for obvious reasons.

It is the demand of time that a very high-yielding-paddy should be cultivated to mitigate the hanger of vast population. We shall have to adopt the advanced technology and developed seeds no matter where they are invented, only if that suit our climate and are harmless to existing environment. In this particular case, the tireless, relentless agro-scientists, agro-officials and the institutions run under their supervision if united with private enterprises in taking firm steps then it can herald a golden agro-GDP like that in our neighbouring country.

MZ Hussain Arzu is a freelance contributor.