Bayer launches India's first BLB-resistant rice hybrid

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Hyderabad, May 7 (UNI) Bayer BioScience Pvt Ltd (formerly Proagro Seed Company Pvt Ltd), a company of Bayer CropScience group, has launched, what it called, a ''revolutionary'' rice hybrid-Arize Dhani.

The new generation rice hybrid Arize Dhani offers high resistance to Bacterial Leaf Blight (BLB), one of the most serious rice disease in India.

The commercial rice hybrid, first-of-its-kind in India, offers a 'holistic solution' to Indian farmers by assuring yield advantage and offering higher resistance to BLB, a dreaded rice disease causing considerable yield loss (20-60 per cent) annually especially in Khariff (wet season) in key rice-growing states in India, according to Mahesh Kumar Girdhar, Head, Bayer BioScience-India.

The hybrid was formally launched at a colourful event organised in Raipur in Chhattisgarh yesterday.

Mr Girdhar said in India, BLB affects 6-7 million hectares annually, causing huge yield losses. The disease can afflict the rice plant in any of its growing stages and cause visible wilting of seedlings, yellowing and drying of leaves, leading to 20 to 60 per cent loss in yield, depending on disease severity and crop stage at the time of infection.

Bayer's Arize Dhani, was a major breakthrough and has the capability of effectively combating BLB besides ensuring better productivity and profitability for the farmers.

''In addition to Chhattisgarh, we are introducing Arize Dhani in key rice-growing states in India such as West Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh (coastal area) where BLB is a major problem.

Bayer's Arize Dhani will add value to Indian agriculture,'' the company quoting Mr Giridhar said in a statement here.

The disease BLB, caused by a bacterium Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae, was estimated to cause an annual economic loss of about 6 Mio MT of rice paddy in India. The situation was further challenging for farmers, as no effective chemical treatment for this disease is currently available.

A non-aromatic segment hybrid Arize Dhani with medium slender grains and 140-145 day duration offers 20 to 30 per cent yield advantage over commercial open-pollinated varieties. In the case of BLB attack, the yield advantage goes up significantly.

''Within Bayer, we have built a strong expertise in hybrid rice breeding and production. We have a highly efficient breeding programme with a global presence and elite germplasm. The breeding strategy for Arize Dhani was to stack a limited number of carefully chosen resistance genes in elite rice germplasm through an integrated approach of ''conventional'' breeding, plant pathology methodologies and molecular market technology,'' Mr Girdhar added.

Hybridisation technology can contribute significantly to Indian agriculture. The Economic Survey for 2007-08, tabled in the Parliament this year, said there has been a ''loss of dynamism'' in the agriculture. The survey further added that the solution lay in enhancing production and improvement of yield.

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