Climate-adaptable Aman: Khulna farmer develops 6 varieties

After chasing his dream for over a decade, 46-year-old Aruni Sarkar, a farmer from remote Gangarampur village of Khulna's Batiaghata upazila, finally succeeded in developing high-yielding and climate-adaptable varieties of Aman paddy.

He claims that his varieties would change the fate of poverty-hit farmers in southern coastal region where saline water intrudes.
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The newly developed six types of Aman paddy have been named "Alo Dhan", "Locos Dhan", "Aruni Dhan", "Ganga Dhan", "Maitri Dhan", and "Lakshmibhog Dhan".

The new varieties have been made through hybridisation of multiple traditional varieties of paddy.

The main features of these paddy are their salinity tolerance, high yield and the ability to ripen faster, said Aruni.

The traditional Aman paddy can survive around one week under saline water. But the new variants can survive over two weeks, he claimed.

Even, the traditional Aman paddy can tolerate 1 dS/m (deciSiemens per metre) -- a unit used to measure the degree of salinity in land. But the new ones can tolerate up to 3 dS/m, claimed Aruni.

Talking to The Daily Star, Ayub Ali, a farmer of Katianangla village in Batiaghata, said he cultivated traditional Kataribhog and Chapshail in 2019. He got around 16 mounds of paddy from each bigha of land.

Next year, he grew "Alo Dhan" and could produce around 24 mounds of paddy from each bigha of land, he said.

Besides, traditional varieties of paddy need around 145 to 170 days before they can be harvested. But the new ones take 135 days tops, he said.

Since his childhood, Aruni had been interested in cross-breed rice varieties.

His efforts to develop a new variant began in 2010 when he participated in a three-day workshop on rice hybridisation in Pirojpur organised by a local NGO LOCOS.

He gained some knowledge on hybridisation and pollination from the workshop and later started applying the knowledge in the field.

He has recently submitted an application to the government's Seed Certification Agency (SCA) for recognition of his varieties.

As per procedure, any such development requires examination and analysis by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) for SCA's recognition.

Mohammed Khalequzzaman, BRRI chief scientific officer, said if a farmer follows the procedures of cross-breeding, he can develop a new variety. But it takes six seasons to get the perfect characteristics of a variant. The government intends to give due credit if somebody develops a new variety, he said.

Contacted, BRRI Director General Md Shahjahan Kabir said necessary measures have been taken to examine the new variants.

If the new varieties are really effective, steps will surely be taken to institutionally recognise them for widespread cultivation, he added.

Talking to this paper, Md Monirul Islam Ripon, professor of Agro Technology at Khulna University, said Aruni's efforts to develop new varieties of Aman paddy are praiseworthy. More time is required to test its suitability for widespread cultivation.

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