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India’s Basmati is reaping the rewards of research

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  • Published
    22nd Sep, 2023


While many scientific research projects may not have immediate tangible results, there are notable success stories like the significant increase in basmati rice exports from India, largely attributed to the work of scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi.

The Basmati Revolution (the First Revolution)

  • Traditional Basmati: Until the late 1980s, Indian basmati rice varieties were tall, prone to lodging, and had low yields (e.g., Taraori and Dehraduni).
  • PB-1 Breakthrough (1989): Pusa Basmati-1 (PB-1), developed by IARI scientists, revolutionized basmati with shorter plants, resistance to lodging, and higher yields.
  • Yield Revolution: PB-1 doubled India's basmati exports, contributing significantly to the industry.

Important Facts

  • India is the largest exporter of rice globally.  India ranked second for the consumption of rice globally.
  • In 2022, the export volume of basmati rice from India amounted to over three billion metric tons globally.
  • Basmati is a distinctive type of aromatic long-grain rice. There are about 34 varieties of basmati rice grown in India.
    • Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh make up the main states where this variety of rice is grown.

The PB-1121 Phenomenon (the Second Revolution)

  • PB-1121 Introduction (2003): Pusa Basmati-1121 (PB-1121), although with slightly lower yields, featured extraordinarily long grain length upon cooking.
  • KRBL's Innovation: Companies like KRBL Ltd. capitalized on PB-1121's unique grain, creating the 'India Gate Classic' brand and boosting exports.
  • Export Surge: PB-1121 propelled basmati rice exports, with over 70% of the share attributed to this variety.

The Arrival of PB-1509 and Disease Resistance (the Third Revolution)

  • PB-1509 Introduction (2013): Pusa Basmati-1509 (PB-1509) offered comparable yields to PB-1 but matured faster, allowing multiple cropping.
  • Disease Resistance: IARI scientists focused on preserving yield gains by incorporating disease-resistant genes in basmati varieties.
  • New Resistant Varieties: In 2021, IARI released Pusa Basmati-1885 and Pusa Basmati-1847, equipped with in-built resistance against diseases, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Challenges and Uncertainties

  • No MSP: Basmati paddy lacks a minimum support price, exposing farmers to market fluctuations.
  • Export Dependency: The industry heavily relies on exports, making it susceptible to shifts in government policies.
  • Recent Restrictions: The government's restrictions on basmati shipments underscore the industry's vulnerability to policy changes.

The transformation of basmati rice from traditional strains to internationally acclaimed varieties reflects the power of scientific research and agricultural innovation in India.

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