Scientists have developed a high zinc-enriched variety of rice that is expected to play a crucial role in fighting malnutrition in tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh where nearly seven lakh children are still malnourished.
The new paddy seed, called ‘Chhattisgarh Zinc Rice-1’, the first zinc biofortified rice variety in India, was launched by the state variety release committee in March and its production is likely to begin from the next kharif season.
“Currently, we have 100kg seeds of this new variety and are planning to multiply it in 10 acres. By November to December this year, we will distribute it to around 5,000 farmers across the state. Its sowing would be started in the next kharif season,” he said.
Researchers from Indira Gandhi Agriculture University (IGAU), Raipur, led by Professor Girish Chandel have rolled out two varieties of high zinc rice.
“We focused on increasing crop production since the inception of the green revolution in the country aiming to eliminate hunger. In the process, we managed to yield high production, but the quality of crop did not improve” Chandel said.
In 2000, the Centre, along with, health organisations in a survey found that 60 to 70 percent of population suffer from malnutrition because of deficiency of micronutrients, particularly iron, zinc and vitamin A. Following this, the government decided to come out with a research programme to improve the variety of three staple crops — rice, wheat and maize — in different states.
In the first phase of Rice Bio Fortification Research Project in 2003-05, some 200 rice germplasm lines with high grain nutritive values, but low-yielding quality were identified.
In 2013, the Centre decided to conduct a separate exercise coordinated by Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad, to analyse the outcome of the researches conducted across the country. Finally, four varieties were adjudged best in terms of quality, of which the top two came from Chhattisgarh.