The National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) and Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) have, under the Bill Melinda Gates rice project, released two rice varieties that could will withstand flood and increase rice yields.
Dr Mohammed Bashir, the National Coordinator for STRASA and Green Super Rice (GSR III) Projects, said this at the workshop on Rice Varietal Replacement Strategies in Abuja on Monday.
Bashir said that the new varieties would help rice farmers to increase their yields from two tonnes per hectare to about seven tonnes per hectare.
He said that the move was to enable Nigeria to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
“Rice is a staple food which every household in Nigeria consumes but our production is very low; the local varieties produced by farmers are low-yielding and we have some biotic and abiotic challenges that limit the production of our variety.
“We usually produce about two to three tonnes, using the farmers’ varieties and with good intervention of technologies, we now have improved varieties that can yield up to four to seven metric tonnes under good management.
“I recall that in 2012, we experienced floods and most rice farms across the country were washed out.
“The plan of the government was to go to Japan or China to bring in a rice variety that can tolerate submergence or flood.
“AfricaRice and National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi, under these STRASA and GSR projects, were able to release two prominent flood-tolerant rice varieties called `Farrow 66’ and `Farrow 67’,’’ .
Dr Francis Nwilene, the Regional Representative of AfricaRice in Nigeria, said that the projects, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were to develop rice varieties that were tolerant to the challenges facing rice production in Nigeria and other African countries.
According to him, the projects have released two flood-tolerant rice varieties and three drought-tolerant rice varieties in Nigeria.
Nwilene listed the drought-tolerant rice varieties as “Farrows 63, 64, 65’’ and “Farrows 66, 67’’ as the flood-resistant varieties.
“We have released these rice varieties for Nigerian farmers and now; these seeds are being moved by the seeds companies that are producing them to farmers for planting, and this is the essence of the project.
“This project is about smallholder farmers; whatever we are developing is for them to plant in their farms,’’.
Mr Gary Atlin, the Senior Programme Officer, Crop Productivity Lead, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the foundation had invested between 40 and 50 million dollars on rice breeding in Africa within the last 10 years.
Atlin said that the investment was done in collaboration with AfricaRice, International Rice Research Institute and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
He said that the foundation had also invested in maize breeding.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the STRASA and Green Super Rice (GSR III) Projects are sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.