Indian rice farmers increasingly opt for buying high-yielding hybrids instead of saving seeds

Credit: Bayer CropScience
Credit: Bayer CropScience

The poorer a state, the less are the chances of its farmers adopting high-yielding seed technology, right? Well, not when it comes to hybrid rice at least.

Out of the country’s total estimated area of 65.8 lakh acres (26.6 lakh hectares) under hybrid paddy — the un-milled grain containing roughly two-thirds rice and one-third husk and bran — nearly 83% is accounted for by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. These are states, whose farmers aren’t as well-off as their counterparts in Northwestern and Southern India, and crop yields well below even that of West Bengal (India’s No. 1 rice producer).

What accounts for this seeming paradox — of relatively poorer farmers taking to planting of hybrids, as opposed to conventional open-pollinated varieties (OPV)?

Hybrids are produced by crossing genetically diverse plants even within the same species. The first-generation or F1 offspring from such crosses tend to have yields higher than what either of the parents (both OPVs) individually can give. Unlike OPVs, though, the grains from hybrids aren’t suited for saving and re-use as seed by farmers. The resultant plants will not have the same hybrid vigour as the F1 offspring. Farmers will, hence, plant hybrid seeds — which, have to be purchased each time — only if the grain yields from them are substantially higher over OPVs.

Read full, original post: Breeding challenges: Hybrid rice clicks better in poor than agriculturally prosperous states

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