Plant Production & Protection Division - AGP
Crop and Grassland Service - AGPC

Support to India's Rice Improvement Programme - IND/91/008

Rice and wheat together make up 83% of the total cereal consumption of about 935 million Indians. To meet the popular demand for rice in the next 15 year, India needs to increase its national rice output by 35% above the present level. Yields of available modern rice varieties, however, have reached a plateau and there is limited scope for expanding the country's rice growing areas.

Learning from the successful introduction of hybrid rice in China, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) identified development of hybrid rice technology and dissemination of hybrid seed in India as a national priority, and initiated a well-designed programme on hybrids 1989. The government of India subsequently asked for assistance and a UNDP/FAO Project, IND/91/008 "Development and Use of Hybrid Rice Technology", was approved in April 1991. After four years of project activities, the Indian government released four hybrid rice varieties with yields which are 16 to 44 percent higher than those of the best check varieties, for cultivation in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Two other hybrid varieties were recommended for release in 1995. In addition, large number of promising hybrids have been identified in national trials at several locations, including the first Basmati hybrid, which in the early trials is producing yield differentials up to two tonnes above the check varieties.

The project has also successfully trained about 1 500 technical staff employed by public and private seed companies, the Department of Agriculture and NGOs ,as well as seed-producing farmers. In addition, the project has assisted in the development of a national hybrid seed-production system which is the key to the dissemination and adoption of hybrid rice technology by farmers. In 1995, hybrid rice was planted on about 10000 ha in India. The government is planning to plant about two million ha with hybrid rice varieties by the year 2000 to ensure food security for the population.

India has been an active member of the FAO/IRRI-supported International Task Force on Hybrid Rice and has consistently shared knowledge gained through the activities of the UNDP/FAO Project IND/91/008 with scientists from other member countries. In particular, the success of UNDP/FAO Project IND/91/008 led the government of India, in cooperation with UNDP, FAO and IRRI , to organize the 3rd International Symposium on Hybrid Rice, 14-16 November 1996, at Hyderabad, India