Diseased unauthorized rice variety affecting the local industry

Dear Editor,
Good seed paddy is essential for productive agriculture. There is a shortage of basic seed paddy at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Anna Regina, for rice farmers in Region Two. Farmers’ access to quality basic seed paddy is compromised for reasons of availability and price.

Seed is quite literally the starting point for rice crop cultivation. As such its importance cannot be over stated. Poor quality seed paddy affects productivity and encourages the spread of diseases and pests. Reserch data, field trials and actual farm use have shown that when properly used, basic seed paddy or a highly certified one can result in significant economic advantage to the farmer.

After the departure in 2001 of Dr S Devadattu, the ITEC Specialist who was attached to the Burma Rice Research Station, the development of new rice varieties ended. Dr Devadattu had joined the GRDB on May 12,1995 as Head of  Plant Pathology under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme of the Government of India. He  along with his Indian colleagues started working on the development of blast resistant lines.

Thousands of his breeding lines were evaluated in different blast-prone areas, and hundreds of blast resistant lines were identified. Upon completing three years of his contract with the GRDB, he requested his release from the Board as of August 13, 2001. GRDB will need new seeds adapted to farmers’ production requirements and conditions, and able to meet the challenges of shifting agro-ecological systems because of climate change.

A new unauthorized rice variety originating from neighbouring Suriname is suspected to have the deadly ‘hoja blanca’ disease (a disease prevalent in the Suriname rice industry) and it is seriously affecting  locally grown varieties bred by Dr Devadattu. Since the importation and planting of the illegal variety, it  is spreading  new pests and diseases in the rice industry which has disastrous consequences for farmers’ crops at the moment.
Yours faithfully,
Mohamed Khan

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