Crop diversification a must for water safety
Professor Dr Parimal Kanti Biswas, renowned agronomist and rice scientist at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, has recently talked with the Daily Observer's SAU correspondent Asik Abdullah on water safety, HYV and country's agro based organization.
Daily Observer (DO): Rice cultivation is decreasing the ground water level rapidly. Would you like to tell me about the remedy for the consequences?
Parimal Kanti Biswas: The area covered by rice is 4.5 million hectare of land in Bangladesh. For producing 1 kg dry matter of paddy, farmer's using 3-4 thousand litres of water. Farmers spend 30-35% of cost of production of crops for irrigation. The irrigated water mostly needed for Boro cultivation. But Aus cultivation can get the rainfall water. But it has less productive capacity. Recently Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) developed the short lived Boro rice variety which consumes low water. Therefore, other cereal crops such as wheat, pulse, maize require less water compare to rice and their benefit cost ratio is higher than rice cultivation. So, it is needed crop diversification to get off water wastage.
DO: Do you think the adoption of high yielding variety (HYV) has become vulnerable to diseases?
PK Biswas: For getting higher production, there is no alternative to HYV. The native variety of rice produces only 4-5 tons of rice per hectare whereas HYV produces 7-8 tons of rice per hectare. But there are some difficulties in HYV. Unless continuously developed, HYV becomes vulnerable to the attack of various diseases and pests. Because after some days of application of pesticide, the pathogen develops resistance gene against the host cell. In previous year, BRRI dhan 28, popular rice variety, cultivated throughout the country, was attacked by rice blast diseases. The government discouraged that time not to cultivate BRRI dhan-28. But it is the popular rice variety in Bangladesh and has highest yielding capacity. BRRI recently developed blast resistance rice variety named BRRI dhan 85 to confront this serious issue. If the development of variety is going on, plant may not get vulnerable to disease attack.
DO: DO you think biocolonism affect the local rice variety of Bangladesh?
PK Biswas: Bangladesh has several rice varieties, such as Basmati, Kalijira etc. But now they are not cultivated in rural areas. Though local variety has low yield but it has high disease resistance capacity and quality. It can also be cultivated for export purpose. Laundering the patent of local rice variety by multinational companies has exacerbated situation for producing local rice variety. In future, if HYV becomes vulnerable to disease in an epidemic level, it will pose great threat for food safety as local variety germplasms are not conserved.
DO: What are the main causes of laundering local varieties?
PK Biswas: Many reasons. Gene bank of BRRI is not rich. Bangladeshi agro scientists are not well concerned about the significance of conservation of germplasm of rice variety. The custom of BD weakens quarentine system accountable for siphoning of gene of local rice variety. The quarantine system of custom has no high level expert, which causes easily trafficking of the seed of local variety. Then multinational companies impose the patent over the local variety. In future, if we want to cultivate our local variety, we may have to pay tax. So emphasized on strict quarantine system is an urgent need for Bangladesh food safety.
DO: Do you think the imbalance between government and NGOs impede the development of agriculture sector?
PK Biswas: There is a huge contribution on behalf of both government and non government organization for developing the agricultural sector in Bangladesh. The BRRI, BINA and agricultural universities have released more than 100 rice varieties. But only 10-15 % quality seed of modern varieties are cultivated in farmers' field. Rest of the seed is coming from private company. But varieties developed by private companies are easily vulnerable to disease and pest as well as it is high in cost. Also, the private company seeks for immediate profit, but government organization seek human welfare. The private seed company should emphasize developing inbred rice variety rather than hybrids. Therefore, balance between govenment and NGO is a prime need for proper development of this sector.
DO: What do you think about the possibility of agricultural sector industrialization?
PK Biswas: Modern technology can't be adopted without industrialization. BRAC, PROSIKA, LalTeer, Pran are a few names of modern industry in the field of agriculture in Bangladesh, which introduced a new dimension to the agriculture sector. Agriculture is totally industrialized abroad. In the USA, only 3% population supply the total food need but in Bangladesh, it's 60-70%, because of lack of industrialization. They easily adopted modern technology such as drone, helicopter at their agricultural field. But in Bangladesh, segmented land causes delayed adaptation of modern technology. Now-a-days, city based agriculture such as roof top gardening, contact farming is becoming popular in our country.
DO: Please tell me about the research on rice on SAU campus.
PK Biswas: As a top agricultural institute, SAU conducted various researches to improve the rice variety such as the reduction of chemical fertilizer, water safety of Boro rice variety, SRI (System of Rice Intensification), control of weeds, allopath use are a few of research activities conducted by the agronomy department of SAU. The short lived and long lived, aromatic and tolerant grain varieties are on the pipeline. Use of clonal tiller in flood affected Aman rice field is a popular technology developed by the SAU, now spread throughout the country. The SRI techniques increased 10 to 30% boro rice yield, which creates saturated condition at field rather diluted condition at dried condition.