New varieties of rice made using nuclear techniques have helped Bangladesh increase its rice production three-fold in the last few decades. This in turn has enabled the country to stay one step ahead of its rapid population growth. Today there is a secure and steady supply of rice in Bangladesh, and the country is shifting from being an importer to an exporter of rice. Binadhan-7 is one of several rice varieties developed by the scientists at the Bangladesh Institute for Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), with the support of the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It was developed through a process using radiation called plant mutation breeding and has since become a popular rice variety in the northern part of the country where it has helped farmers and workers stabilize their income and find year-long employment.
Globally more than 3 000 plant varieties have been developed and released using plant mutation breeding techniques. These mutant varieties will continue to play a key role in meeting global food demands as the world’s population rapidly grows and environmental conditions become more challenging. They can also help in averting famine, a major global problem recently highlighted by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Many scientists around the world turn to plant mutation breeding because it allows them to harness a natural process toward more quickly homing in on and cultivating desirable characteristics in plants,” said Ljupcho Jankuloski, Acting Head of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. “This method saves time and money for researchers, while resulting in the kinds of plants farmers need to cost-effectively keep food on the table and money in their pockets. For many farmers, these plant varieties are a game changer.”
Plant mutation breeding is the process of exposing plant seeds, cuttings or a shredded plant leaf to radiation, such as gamma rays, and then planting the seed or cultivating the irradiated material in a sterile rooting medium, which generates a plantlet. The individual plants are then multiplied and examined for their traits. Molecular marker-assisted breeding, often referred to as marker-assisted selection, is used to accelerate the selection of plants with desired traits, carried by genes of interest. Plant mutation breeding does not involve gene modification, but rather uses a plant’s own genetic resources and mimics the natural process of spontaneous mutation, the motor of evolution. By using radiation, scientists can significantly shorten the time it takes to breed new and improved plant varieties.
Thirteen new rice varieties have been developed by BINA using plant mutation breeding since the 1970s. What sets Binadhan-7 apart from local rice varieties is its shorter growing time and ability to produce more rice. Local varieties used in the north produce around 2 tonnes of husked rice per hectare and take about 150 days to mature for harvest. Binadhan-7 produces around 3.5 to 4.5 tonnes per hectare and takes around 115 days to be ready for harvest. Since its first release in 2007, Binadhan-7 has helped to improve the livelihoods of more than 20% of the people living in the northern region, according to BINA. These new varieties help Bangladeshi farmers deal with enduring problems such as water shortages, drought, salty soil and soil degradation, which make it difficult for crops to survive and can turn soil into unusable farmland.
Source: www.iaea.org (Edited)