Flood-Tolerant Rice: A Solution for India?

Dr. David Mackill of the International Rice Research Institute. (Asia Society)
Dr. David Mackill of the International Rice Research Institute. (Asia Society)

MUMBAI - A new, stress-tolerant variety of rice can help boost yields and profits for farmers in areas prone to flooding, according to an expert from a leading rice research organization.

In a lecture hosted by the Asia Society India Centre, Dr. David Mackill, expert in plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), said that the IRRI is breeding a flood-tolerant rice by manipulating genes in rice to get better strains.

According to Mackill, IRRI hasdiscovered, in rice varieties in Orissa and Sri Lanka, a gene that they called Sub 1 gene. This gene enables rice to survive—and more importantly, recover—after flooding. IRRI has worked to add the Sub 1 gene to Swarna (a popular rice variety in India).

Field tests of Sub 1 rice have been very successful, said Mackill. The video below shows a field test between rice with the Sub 1 gene and rice without the Sub 1 gene that was conducted over an entire rice production season.


Swarna with Sub 1 yields is twice that of Swarna without Sub 1 with about 15 days of submergence. Real-life use of Swarna Sub 1 by farmers in UP and Orissa in India are also said to show positive results.

The challenge the IRRI now faces is to increase production of seeds for rice varieties with the Sub 1 gene and get those seeds into the hands of farmers. In India, Swarna Sub 1 is not yet a commercially approved seed.

Excerpt: David Mackill discusses the effectiveness ofSwarna sub-1 in resisting flood damage as seen through a series offield experiments (5 min, 33 sec.)



Listen to the complete program (1 hr., 5 min.)