Ghana has six new varieties of lowland rice released by breeders at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
These new varieties perform well in both swampy and irrigated ecologies with a yield potential of 8–9.5 metric tonnes per hectare, which has about 2–18% yield advantage over the current varieties.
All six varieties are tolerant to the rice yellow mottle virus disease and iron toxicity as well as other environmental stresses, including unfavourable climatic conditions.
The research activities test for drought tolerance, salinity tolerance and many of the things that climate change brings in crop production.
“These are very good times for farmers,” says Dr. Maxwell Asante, a rice breeder and senior research scientist.
“We are expecting that if farmers adopt these varieties, production levels will increase and with the seriousness government is attaching to agriculture now, with the Planting for Food and Jobs [programme] where they are giving them fertilizers, loans and other things, the full potentials of these varieties will be expressed on the field”.
Rice is a major food security crop in Ghana. The CSIR-CRI has over the years released eight varieties, whilst the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) has developed six rice varieties.
The twenty varieties of domestic rice developed by the research institutions should give Ghanaian farmers the urge to increase production for national rice self-sufficiency.
But the country’s rice import bill keep rising, currently hovering close to $600 million per annum.
Director of CSIR-CRI, Dr. Stella Ennin, is hoping for a shift in taste because the new domestic rice varieties are within the consumer-preferred perfumed class, which is driving the importation of the grain food.
The new Ghanaian grain type is similar to the conventional US long grains, such as Texas Star or Jasmine type of rice. Two of the lines also have starch pasting properties that make them suitable for processing into other products such as breakfast cereals and canned soup.
“We also have the production technology that goes with these crops to ensure that we are able to manage these crops within the environment to achieve their full potential,” she noted.
Ghanaian rice breeders say they are producing varieties that are comparable to the imported brands, but their efforts will only become fruitful when the rice value chain works without any break – from extension services to farming as a business and consumption patterns.
According to Dr. Asante, a sustained interest of government to support agricultural production, coupled with dedicated research activities will help reverse rice importation and drive self-sufficiency within the next five to ten years.
By Kofi Adu Domfeh |3news.com