Mymensingh, Bangladesh — New varieties of rice made using nuclear techniques have helped Bangladesh increase its rice production three-fold in the last few decades. This in turn has enabled the country to stay one step ahead of its rapid population growth. Today there is a secure and steady supply of rice in Bangladesh, and the country is shifting from being an importer to an exporter of rice. Achieving food security and improved nutrition will be a key theme at the IAEA Technical Cooperation Conference from 30 May to 1 June in Vienna.
“I have more rice for my family, and I now earn almost double with the rice and mustard seed I grow compared to before,” said Suruj Ali, a farmer from Gerapacha village just north of Mymensingh near the border of Bangladesh and India, who grows a new type of rice plant called Binadhan-7. “I also save money because I don’t have to spray as much for insects.”
Binadhan-7 is one of several rice varieties developed by the scientists at the Bangladesh Institute for Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), with the support of the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It was developed through a process using radiation called plant mutation breeding (see Plant mutation breeding), and has since become a popular rice variety in the northern part of the country where it has helped farmers and workers stabilize their income and find year-long employment.
Globally more than 3 000 plant varieties have been developed and released using plant mutation breeding techniques. These mutant varieties will continue to play a key role in meeting global food demands as the world's population rapidly grows and environmental conditions become more challenging. They can also help in averting famine, a major global problem recently highlighted by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“Many scientists around the world turn to plant mutation breeding because it allows them to harness a natural process toward more quickly homing in on and cultivating desirable characteristics in plants,” said Ljupcho Jankuloski, Acting Head of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. “This method saves time and money for researchers, while resulting in the kinds of plants farmers need to cost-effectively keep food on the table and money in their pockets. For many farmers, these plant varieties are a game changer.”
Irradiating seeds has proven to be a ready to use and flexible way to develop better crops.