Question: Herbicide tolerant rice varieties will usher a new era in India’s agriculture sector. Explain the benefits stemming from cultivating herbicide rice varieties in India.
Answer: Variety of rice that does not get harmed due to application of herbicides is known as herbicide tolerant. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has developed the country’s first-ever non-GM herbicide-tolerant rice varieties.
The new varieties
- Pusa Basmati 1979 & 1985 contain a mutated acetolactate synthase (ALS) gene making it possible for farmers to spray Imazethapyr to control weeds.
- Imazethapyr can’t be used on normal paddy, as the chemical does not distinguish between the crop and the invasive plants.
- The ALS gene in new rice varieties has been altered using ethyl methanesulfonate.
- As a result, the ALS enzymes no longer have binding sites for Imazethapyr and amino acid synthesis isn’t inhibited.
Need for herbicide tolerant rice varieties
- Reduce flood irrigation
In absence of herbicide farmers have to rely on flood irrigation to prevent rice saplings during their early phase. Now there is no need.
- Allow use of cheaper herbicide
The regularly used herbicide Imazethapyr is cheaper but cannot distinguish between crops and weeds. To avoid that farmers are forced to use costlier herbicides.
Benefits of the herbicide tolerant variety
- Cut labour costs
Major cost involved in farming comes from labour cost needed for rice planting after growing in nursery. The new variety can be grown directly like wheat.
- Non GM
The new variety is non-Genetically Modified in nature. It is grown through breeding between varieties. This ensures there are no problems regarding its consumption.
- Water management
In dry states like Haryana large amounts of water is used for growing rice, putting pressure on ground water. The new variety is likely to save water.
- Land management
Excessive irrigation makes fields acidic in the long run. They become low yielding and become degraded if this continues.
Thus, the new variety of rice has the potential to transform paddy cultivation method in whole India. This will go a long way in modernisation of the sector.