Bangladesh food

BRRI research and future food security

Photo: Hridoye Mati O Manush Dr Habibul Bari Sajib talks about the different perspectives of rice research at the BRRI laboratory in Gazipur.


Photo: Hridoye Mati O Manush Dr Habibul Bari Sajib talks about the different perspectives of rice research at the BRRI laboratory in Gazipur.

The adverse effects of climate change affect the whole world. While global warming, increased salinity, rising sea levels and the destruction of biodiversity affect us, the world faces another bigger challenge to ensure food security. Of the 7.9 billion people in the world, around 850 million still suffer from hunger. In Bangladesh, more than 20 million people do not have good access to food. As a result, one in six people in the country suffer from malnutrition. Rice is the staple of your daily diet. I went to Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) in Gazipur in the first week of June this year.

According to a report on food production and growth by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the growth of rice production in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, which are known as the largest rice-producing countries in the world, is declining. However, Bangladesh is an exception in this circumstance. We have surpassed everyone in the growth rate of rice production and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has played a key role in this. They work with the aim of maintaining sustainable food security and producing safe food.

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In view of the year 2050, several agendas have been undertaken. Among them, the first is to produce more rice in quantity and quality at lower cost. Second, to ensure crops free from diseases and insects, the availability of fertilizers and the management of soil and water by protecting biodiversity. Third, to develop varieties and techniques capable of adapting to hostile environments. Fourth, increase institutional research capacity to lift Bangladesh out of poverty. In doing so, one of the research priorities is research into the effects of nano-fertilizers and nano-pesticides, which will help prevent rice neck blast disease, the scientists said.

I spoke to the scientific director of the division of plant physiology, Dr. Sazzadur Rahman, and he told me that they had taken kaun rice as a model for the C4 plant. They are conducting experiments on transferring Kaun’s gene to rice. In 2005, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Yuan Longping, father of hybrid rice, in Changsha in the province of Hunan in China. At that time, hybrid rice production in China was nine tons per hectare. He said they are working on the development of super hybrid varieties through the transfer of C4 rice from maize and the production will be 22 tons per hectare.

Today, C4 research is ongoing with the goal of reducing water use and increasing nitrogen growth capacity so it can adapt to changing weather conditions. This will result in more photosynthesis in rice even under adverse weather conditions and be able to produce rice with less water. In our country, the weather is usually warmer and more humid in March-April. In case of extreme heat, there is more empty rice (chita rice). Scientists are also working on developing varieties that are resistant to high temperatures to prevent this. He says if BRRI 28 and BRRI 29, two popular varieties in our country, can be established as high temperature tolerant varieties, the C4 variety will be very helpful for climate change.

Shahanaz Sultana, Scientific Director of Biotechnology Department of BRRI, said the latest global biofortification and GMO technology is being used at BRRI to develop nutritious and safe rice varieties. Genome editing of the rice, called BRRI 86, is underway and stakeholders hope it will play an important role in Boro and Aman in the future. A state-of-the-art rice analysis laboratory has also been set up at BRRI. Related scientists said that in addition to research, they also provide training to researchers from various institutions. Various experiments are underway with C4 rice. The lab has already passed the test to reach international standards for testing whether there are pesticides or herbicides in C4 rice.

According to the principles of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), it is possible to export rice by obtaining a certificate from the laboratory, said Dr. Habibul Bari Sajib, Principal Scientific Officer at the Crop Quality and Nutrition Division of the BRRI. BRRI scientists have already developed six such varieties, including the world’s first zinc-rich rice variety BRRI 62 and other varieties, containing nutritional qualities such as protein, iron, antioxidants, GABA, pro-vitamin- HAS. They have also developed rice varieties containing low GI and medicinal properties. In addition to this, BRRI has invented rice varieties which can be added to rice according to the needs of the body.

The launches of these new varieties are in progress. They want to deliver the rice seeds to the field after getting approval from the environment department. Work on Golden Rice began a long time ago at the International Rice Research Institute, IRRI. In the early 21st century, research on Golden Rice was carried out in Los Baños, Philippines, with nutritional addition of vitamin A and the popular BR 29 variety from Bangladesh.

BRRI research has enabled us to achieve food self-sufficiency in Bangladesh today. However, the pace is quite slow in terms of global search standards. We need to be more proactive in this regard and think about timely research. In addition, farmers should be introduced to modern agricultural knowledge and technologies. If we can’t determine the future of agriculture now, we will always fall behind. We know that farming today is not just farming, it is related to the nutritional needs of people around the world. The challenge of food demand is not only ours, but that of the whole world. Developed countries are ready to meet the challenge by adopting new technologies and innovations by taking effective measures. According to researchers, global arable land is shrinking by 10 to 35 million hectares each year. With the constant increase in the world’s population, the danger of food shortage is becoming quite alarming. With this in mind, the world’s rice-producing countries – Vietnam, Pakistan, the Philippines, India and Bangladesh – are striving to get more yield and produce nutritious rice. I believe that if the BRRI Vision 2050 target is achieved, the food and nutrition security of the people of the country will be achieved.