Nigerian farmers get drought, flood tolerant rice developed by AfricaRice, NCRI, others

FarmersTHE Nigerian rice farmers will experience more boost in rice production, as the AfricaRice, Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), Baddegi, and Green Super Rice (GSR), have developed a Rice variety that is tolerant to flood and drought.

This rice varieties Faro 63, 64, 65, 66 and 67, have been developed and it is expected that the Nigerian seeds companies will multiply the seeds and distribute to farmers across the country.

During an interview with journalists after a workshop on Rice Varietal Replacement Strategies, Dr Mohammed Bashir, Rice Breeder at NCRI said due to the rate at which at which rice is consumed in the country, the farmers’ variety could not provide enough to meet the local demands.

He said it was at this backdrop and other issues that affect rice production, that the NCRI with the collaboration of both local and international stakeholders developed a rice variety that can increase yield per hectare and withstand some climate conditions.

According to him, “With the fast teeming population of Nigeria, rice is one of the staple food, in those days rice used to be a ceremonial food, but now it has become a staple food, every household consume it on daily basis, our production is very low, the local varieties produced by farmers are not yielding, we are having a lot of challenges of both biotic and abiotic stresses that limit the production of our varieties.

“Per hectare, we hardly produce two to three metric tons using farmers variety, now with the interventions of new technologies, using Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA), Africa Rice and National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), Baddegi, now we are having improved varieties that can give you up to Four to seven metric tons per hectare under good management.”

He, how, said “recently, also one of the main challenges in Nigeria, if you recall back to 2012, when we had a severe flood that most of the rice farms across the country were washed out, the Minister threw a challenge on how we can overcome this in the future, their planets to go to China or Japan to bring in rice that can tolerate such menace, but on our own, we developed a variety that can tolerate submergence, that can tolerate flood, today, Africa Rice in collaboration with NCRI with STRASA and Green Super Rice (GSR) project, we are able to release two prominent flood-tolerant rice variety called Faro 66 and Faro 67, which was released in 2017.

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“In Nigeria, we have diverse ecology for rice production, from upland rain irrigated lowland and under irrigated lowland (Mangrove), the yield in upland ecology used to be very low, below 1.5 metric tons per hectare, but recently with this STRASA and GSR project, we are able to develop a rice variety Faro 63, 64 and 65 that can give about 4 metric tons per hectare under upland rice ecology, they were released in 2015.

“The varieties are now available for farmers, though are trying to multiply the seeds more to be disseminated to rice farmers in Nigeria.”

However, the Deputy, Director General of AfricaRice, Dr Etienne Duveilla, regretted that Africa has the potentials to produce rice for local consumption, but “the demand for rice in Africa is increasing every day, Africa is importing $5 billion worth of rice annually.”

Speaking on the objectives of the project, Dr Francis Nwilene, The Regional Representative of Africa Rice in Nigeria, said the essence was to develop rice varieties that can tolerate common stress in Nigeria and other African countries.

His words: “The Green Super Rice and the STRASA is a combination of projects sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the essence of the project is to develop varieties that are tolerant to most of the common stresses we have in Nigeria and other African countries, and secondly to develop hybrid rice for Africa.

“Today in Nigeria we have five rice varieties courtesy of this project, three are drought tolerant varieties and two are flood tolerant varieties for Nigeria, Faro 63, 64, 65, 66 and 67.

“The seeds companies are currently multiplying the seeds for farmers to plant, this is the essence of what this project is all about, it is about the smallholders farmers, whatever we are developing is for them to be able to plant these things in their field, I think this is the essence of this project.”

Speaking the yield of the rice varieties, Dr Nwilene said “the yield per hectare depends on the deferent ecology where you grow the rice, for instance, on average in Nigeria, for the lowland we have 4 tons per hectare, for the irrigated we have 6 to 7 tons per hectare and for the upland rice was talking about 2 or 2.5 tons per hectare’ this is now the average for Nigeria, but we want to see how far what we do can shoot beyond this averages.”

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