Choki Wangmo

The National Centre for Organic Agriculture (NCOA) in Yusipang has released six climate-resilient rice varieties last week.

The varieties were piloted in Tsento gewog in Paro, one of the highest rice-growing gewogs in the dzongkhag.

The selection and access to the varieties—Jakar Ray Naab, Khangma Maap, Yusiray Maap-1, Yusiray Kaap-3, Chandanath-1 and Bulk-20— is seen as an urgent need to the high altitude rice farmers because most of the varieties cannot grow unless the varieties have high tolerance to cold, said the researcher with NCOA, Yenten Namgay.

The yield potential of the varieties was 2.3 tonnes/acre for Jakar Ray Naab, 2.6 tonnes/acre for Khangma Maap, 3.01 tonnes/acre for Yusiray Maap-1, 2.9 tonnes/acre for Yusiray Kaap-3, 2.5 tonnes/acre for Chandanath-1 and 2.75 tonnes/acre for Bulk-20.

During the trial, farmers were asked to select and tag the varieties they preferred to grow in the coming rice season. People chose Chandanath-1 and Bulk-20 as the best performing varieties in Metsi, he said.

However, both these varieties are under evaluation and will be released in the future. The seeds will be supplied in the two villages for the growing season next year.

On-farm trial was conducted in Metsi village for this year’s rice season.

Metsi and Zamsa villages in the gewog have access to two varieties of rice—Jakar Ray Naab and Khangma Maap. But recently, Yenten Namgay said that the farmers complained about the deteriorating quality, productivity, and tolerance of the varieties to disease.

Yenten Namgay said that cold temperature, incidence of fungal diseases such as rice blast and a very short growing season are the three most critical constraints faced by rice farmers in Tsento.

The traditional varieties of rice in the country were mostly damaged by rice blast disease epidemic in 1995.

The pilot project was funded by Biodiversity International through Evolutionary Plant Breeding Project and is jointly implemented by National Biodiversity Centre and NCOA.

An evolutionary breeding allows varieties to evolve in a given environment and allow farmers to select the best material they prefer. It also involves mixing seed of different varieties allowing natural evolution over time under farmers management by which varieties get adapted and evolved through a continuous selection process by the farmers.

Due to Covid-19, Yenten Namgay said that the project had to limit the number of farmers to 10 but everyone had access to equal share of seeds.

Choden from Metsi said that when the varieties like Ola Naab were introduced in the past, farmers could increase production for self-consumption and sale in the market but in recent years, the production has decreased. “It has become old and is vulnerable to damage.”

In her more than an acre land, she harvests about 300 kilograms (Kg) of paddy during the growing season.

Those with higher land holdings harvest as high as thousand kgs.

According to the United Nations, 91 percent of all disasters between 1998 and 2017 were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Such events are becoming more frequent and intense, and with growing impacts on food security.

The UN’s Global Assessment Report 2019 warned of dangerous overdependence on single crops in an age of accelerating global warming, with drought likely to emerge as a complex risk due to its wide-ranging, slow building, and cascading impacts.