South Asia radius
Indian, Australian academics collaborate for salt tolerant rice study
Scientists from India and Australia will collaborate towards the development of a strain of rice that is tolerant to salt water.
The three-year partnership between the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and the University of Tasmania in Chennai will conduct research on salt-tolerant rice varieties identified from wild species in India and Australia.
Holger Meinke, director of Tasmania University’s School of Land and Food, said that food security was a burning issue not just in Asia-Pacific, and plants that are resistant to salinity could be of great significance in the fight to grow more crops in the available land.
“We need to produce as much food in the next 50 years as we did in the entire 10,000 year history of agriculture. This is the reason why we need these kinds of projects,” Dr Meinke said.
MSSRF’s executive director, V Selvam, said that the Indian institute had developed an international reputation in the field after conducted pioneering work on saline-tolerant plants in mangroves.
“The Integrated Mangrove Fishing Farming System developed by MSSRF has been recognised as a ‘Blue Solution’ by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We need new approaches for food security,” he said.
The Indo-Australian project will now explore the use of Porteresia coarctata, a halophytic, wild rice relative that is found as a mangrove associate in the inter-tidal mangrove swamps along the coasts of India and Bangladesh.
Principal investigator Ajay Parida called the project a milestone in biotechnology research due to its international collaboration.
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Heavy monsoon rains give boost to Indian agriculture suppliers
Plentiful monsoons this year are behind an expected 15-45% surge in sales and profits for Indian agro-based businesses over the remainder of 2016.
According to a report by Assocham, the apex industry body, good rains have prompted a rise in rural demand from companies involved in irrigation, farm equipment, seed developers and food processing businesses.
Firms such as Mahindra & Mahindra, Rallis India and Jain Irrigation will benefit immensely from a sizeable improvement in rural demand for farm inputs, the report said.
“With the monsoon being the lifeline of the Indian economy, it is no surprise that good rains would bring good fortune not only to the companies engaged in the farm-related sectors but also the entire macro picture,” Assocham’s president, Sunil Kanoria, said at the launch of the paper.
Buoyed by a good monsoon, the number of tractors sold by Mahindra & Mahindra is expected to rise by 15% over the remainder of the fiscal year, the report found.
Other leading tractor and farm equipment firms, including Escorts and VST Tillers Tractors, are also expected to do well both in income and net earnings, it said.
Similarly, Tata Group subsidiary Rallis India is expected to see over 33% in improved sales during the monsoon months, while Coromandel International will be likely to report sales growth of almost 20%.
“A positive monsoon for the year 2016 is projected to put the irrigation business in good shape. A growth of 17-18% is expected in the sales during the monsoon season as well as the lean season,” the report said.
Improved rains have come as a relief a year after the worst monsoon since 2009. Last year, the critical southwest monsoon ended with a rain shortfall of 14%, leading to fears of drought in at least a third of India’s growing areas.
Ifad awards loan to help raise farming incomes of 1m poor Bangladeshi families
Bangladesh’s government has signed an agreement with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) in a bid to increase the incomes more than 1m poor farming households in the country by increasing agricultural production and improving access to markets.
Ifad will provide US$23.86m as a loan to fund a US$214m programme that will cover most of the country and span a broad range of agro-ecological zones across Bangladesh.
The agreement was signed by Mohammad Mejbahuddin, Senior Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Planning, Government of Bangladesh and Hubert Boirard, Country Programme Manager for Bangladesh, IFAD.
“In Bangladesh, poverty in rural areas is still three times higher than in urban areas. Under the new programme, farming households will benefit directly or indirectly from extension services, hands-on training and on-farm demonstrations of climate-smart technologies and applied research,” said Hubert Boirard, Ifad’s country programme manager.
The programme will also strengthen the capacity of Bangladesh’s agricultural research network to develop agricultural technologies aimed at increasing farm productivity and reducing post-harvest losses.
It will promote farmer groups and producer organisations and link them to existing markets, provide support for the sustainable development of inland fish farms, and ensure that a significant proportion of direct beneficiaries are women.
Since 1978, Ifad has invested almost $720m in 31 projects in Bangladesh, benefitting more than 10m households.