Saltwater-tolerant paddyAs per the sources, it has been reported that the Scientists at the Rice Research Station of Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) at Vyttila have developed a new variety of paddy tolerant to saline intrusion, a major challenge faced by farmers in the lowlands. This landmark achievement in rice research was made possible by the introduction of genes tolerant to salinity and iron toxicity into Jyothi, Kerala’s most popular rice variety. The project which began in 2008 involved the incorporation of the SalTol gene present in Pokkali, into Jyothi, the most saline tolerant rice variety in the world. It has also been described that the  Jyothi is  known for its superior grain quality, yet restricted by the lack of saline tolerance, has become suitable for Pokkali fields, Kuttanad and kolelands as well, according to the researchers. The scientists used the introgressive hybridization technique to move the SalTol gene from Pokkali to the gene pool of Jyothi. The project was part of a long-term programme initiated by KAU for the development of stress-tolerant rice varieties for less favourable environments. The SalTol gene is the donor for salinity-tolerant rice breeding programmes all over the world.

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Further, in this regards, the attempt have been made to introduce SalTol into Jyothi has borne fruit after seven years of research. The introgressed Jyothi lines have recorded a very high yield of 6.2 tonnes per hectare as it was informed by Dr P. Rajendran, KAU Vice-Chancellor. In addition, Dr V. Sreekumar, Professor and Head, RRS, Vyttila, told that the introgressed Jyothi variety was suitable for cultivation in the eastern and western coastal areas of the Indian Peninsula. The research team is now working on the introduction of a submergent tolerant gene (Sabl) into Jyothi, to make the rice variety resistant to flash floods up to two weeks and this work is in the final stage. It has also been stated that, submergence is another major challenge faced by farmers in the lowlands. Mr Shylaraj, who piloted the research work, narrated that introgressing the saline tolerant gene into Jyothi was achieved through the Marker Assisted Backcross Breeding (MABB) technique.

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