NEW DELHI, September 28 (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched a range of new high-yielding crop varieties, including herbicide-tolerant rice that can be sown directly into the ground, reducing water expenditure and agricultural workers.
In India, the world’s largest rice exporter, the conventional method of growing rice requires farmers to sow seeds in nurseries and then wait 20-30 days before manually transplanting the seedlings into plantation fields that are ankle deep in water.
With the new seed varieties, developed by the state-run Indian Agricultural Research Institute, farmers only need to irrigate the field once to moisten the soil before sowing rice.
The conventional growing method also uses a lot of water for weed control as herbicides are expensive and often do not distinguish between rice and unwanted vegetation.
Government scientists said the new varieties of rice contain a gene that would allow farmers to spray a common, inexpensive herbicide without worrying about side effects.
âWe are focusing very strongly on more nutritious seeds, which can be adapted to new conditions, especially in changing climates,â said Modi.
Water conservation is probably the main draw for new varieties of rice in India, where farmers rely heavily on monsoon rains.
The conventional method uses 3000 to 5000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of rice. The new varieties could reduce water use by at least 50 to 60 percent, according to farmers and government officials.
âFor farmers like us, the main concern was weed management, and the new varieties are addressing that concern,â said Ravindra Kajal, who grows rice on her 9-acre (3.6-hectare) plot in the northern state of Haryana. .
India is also the world’s largest producer of rice after China.
Report by Mayank Bhardwaj. Editing by Jane Merriman
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