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To fight the "white" plague: Development of salinity-tolerant rice varieties in Bangladesh

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Published on Aug 25, 2011

Also see: http://irri.org/index.php?option=com_...

Each year, during the boro season (November-May), salinity is so high that a white film of salt covers paddy fields in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. For Bangladeshi farmers, this white color on top of their soil is a warning sign that their land is "sick." Salinity is even dubbed the "white plague" in Australia's newspapers and magazines, which indicates the seriousness of the problem when it strikes.

It has been more than a decade now since the discovery of Saltol—a gene that confers salinity tolerance. Glenn Gregorio, a plant breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI; http://irri.org), credited most of salinity tolerance to the development of IR66946-3R-178-1-1, popularly known as FL478. The Saltol gene had been incorporated into this variety, and had shown significant tolerance of salinity.

Since then, through molecular-assisted breeding, the IRRI multidisciplinary team on salinity tolerance composed of physiologist Abdelbagi Ismail, molecular biologist Mike Thomson, Dr. R.K. Singh, and Dr. Gregorio as well as country partners in Asia and Africa were able to introgress Saltol into popular rice varieties.

One of these varieties is BRRI dhan47, which was released in Bangladesh in 2007. It is an IRRI-bred variety, labeled as IR63307-4B-4-3, which was evaluated and released by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI; http://www.brri.gov.bd ) in collaboration with the IRRI team for salinity tolerance now headed by Dr. Gregorio.

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