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IIRR Researchers Develop Paddy Varieties that Need 30% Less Phosphorous

While the nation struggles to meet the demand for fertiliser, researchers at the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) have created paddy varieties that require at least 30% less phosphorous. A small portion of the seed consignments, successfully tested at the institute's Rajendranagar trial fields, have already made it to the farmers' fields in Telangana and Karnataka.

Shivam Dwivedi
first rice variety in the nation with low phosphorous
first rice variety in the nation with low phosphorous

Anantha M. S., senior scientist (Plant Breeding) at ICAR-IIRR, demonstrated the paddy crop grown successfully on a small plot with shallow phosphorous content for about 25 years at the institute's trial field in Rajendranagar. He told that the institute had developed four varieties showing tolerance to low-phosphorous content in the soil.

The institute is currently focusing on the States that grow the BPT variety of paddy. About 20 farmers in the Ballari, Kushtagi, and Raichur districts of Karnataka have received small consignments of seeds from this organisation. According to Anantha, ten Telangana and Andhra Pradesh farmers received the seed.

The first rice variety in the nation with low phosphorous tolerance for any crop is DRR Dhan 60. The enhanced Samba Masuri variety has bacterial blight resistance and a high yield. The variety produces a maximum yield of 5.19 tonnes per hectare (with 60 kg/ha of phosphorus) after maturing for 125–130 days. The IIRR scientists believe it has this potential and could provide farmers in Eastern India with a viable alternative. Other states that grow rice, like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Odisha, can also grow it.

The other varieties that provide the same advantages are DRR Dhan 66, DRR Dhan 65, and WGL-1487. In collaboration with researchers at Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University, WGL-1487 was created.

Satendra Kumar Mangrauthia, a senior scientist, stated that these four varieties "have the potential to occupy 3–4 million hectares of area under rice cultivation based on the identified zones for which varieties have been released." The IRRI team screened rice genotypes that can withstand low phosphorus environments to create new varieties.

Key Macronutrient

As a critical macronutrient for energy storage and transfer within cells, phosphorus is essential for the growth and yields of paddy. Along with accelerating root growth, it also makes it easier for plants to absorb more nitrogen, which boosts grain protein yields.

The vast majority of the soils in India's rice-growing regions lack enough phosphorus. The majority of the phosphorus used as fertilizer drains into water bodies, forcing farmers to apply it again and again, he claimed.

To make phosphorus-based fertilizers accessible to farmers, India relies on imports and provides substantial subsidies. To replenish the nutrients in the soil, the government and farmers are spending enormous sums on fertilisers. Fertilizers with phosphorus are imported. Another issue is the chemical's limited availability.

75 lakh tonnes of phosphatic fertilisers (DAP and NPK) were imported in 2020–2021, making up nearly one-third of all fertiliser imports. According to Mangrauthia, who cited official statistics, the Center has spent 60,939 crore on subsidies for phosphorus and potassium fertilisers, including DAP.

R M Sundaram, Director of IIRR, stated: "Developing varieties that minimise the fertiliser application and enhance the phosphorus utilisation by plants would be the right approach keeping in mind the costs involved and limited availability of the resource. No additional agronomic advice is given to the farmers because these rice varieties were created using conventional breeding methods.”

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