Sources at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) say the number of developed and released rice varieties by the state-run rice research body currently stands at 81. Of them, 25 are varieties of Boro, 36 of Aman and 10 are Aush.
In addition, Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) has developed another 18 rice varieties since its inception.
Yet, statistics show that the most popular rice varieties among farmers are two Boro varieties – BRRI Dhan 28 and BRRI Dhan 29. These two varieties had the highest adoption rates in 2014-15 – 40.14% and 28.51%, respectively.
Among other popular rice varieties are Aman BRRI Dhan 11 with 11.6% adoption rate, Aman BRRI Dhan 49 with 11.07%, Aush BR 26 with 8.75%, Aush BRRI Dhan 48 with 7.84%, Aman BRRI Dhan 28 with 7.26%, Aman BRRI Dhan 32 with 4.13% and Boro BR 16 with 3.71% adoption rates.
However, during Aush season, a significant portion of paddy farmers prefer cultivating BRRI Dhan 28, which is a Boro variety: nearly 21% farmers choose this Boro variety over Aush varieties.
“Only a few rice varieties are being cultivated because the other varieties have not been distributed among farmers,” said Jibon Krisna Biswas, former director general of BRRI.
“Another reason could be the nature of the varieties; some of the recently developed rice varieties are region specific, while some are developed with high tolerance to salinity, drought and submergence,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Asked why Boro varieties BRRI Dhan 28 and BRRI Dhan 29 have such high adoption rates despite the availability of other varieties, the veteran scientist blamed Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC), who is responsible for distributing rice varieties among farmers.
“The BADC always tries to produce the varieties that are popular, rather than producing the new ones and introduce them to farmers.”
However, BADC Chairman Md Nasiruzzaman refuted the allegation, saying they produced and distributed seed varieties as per farmers’ demand.
“We cannot produce a variety unless there is a demand for them, in order to avoid financial loss,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture Extension Director General Md Hamidur Rahman said popularising a new crop variety among farmers usually takes time.
“In addition, farmers are the best judge of the production value of a variety as they cultivate it for their own profit. They accept the varieties which will give them the best production in short time,” he said.
BADC Chairman Nasir told the Dhaka Tribune: “The government could make the newly invented rice varieties popular via proper field demonstration, so that so that farmers could learn about them.”