Current Affairs New strains of rice to address climate change and...

New strains of rice to address climate change and bolster food security


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23 October 2020

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) working along with the Shanghai Agrobiological Gene Center has developed and tested a new strain of rice WDR 73, which doesn’t need to be planted in a flooded paddy field. It also helped boost yields by about 30 percent compared to locally grown varieties.

Researchers have developed and tested over 50 varieties of rice in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

Rice is a staple for more than 3.5 billion people, including most of the world’s poor. But it can be a problematic crop to farm. It requires massive amounts of water and the paddies in which it grows emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The research, say, experts, could help bolster food security at a time when COVID-19 is threatening to propel more people into hunger.

The study, which runs from 2017 to 2021, is funded by the Government of China and falls under the China-Africa South-South Cooperation arrangement.

What are the benefits of this new strain of rice -WDR 73?

  1. It does not need flooded fields to grow. The normal process of growing rice needs the seedling to be transferred to flooded fields, which is a laborious process. WDR 73 doesn’t need to be planted in a flooded paddy.
  2. Paddies are breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes and this can be avoided.
  3. Water shortages, sparked by climate change, are expected to make filling paddies a challenge in many countries. The strains of rice are drought resistant.
  4. Paddies themselves vent massive amounts of methane –  up to 20 percent of human-related emissions of the greenhouse gas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  5. Growing rice on relatively dry land also reduces the ever-growing quest to open up wetlands, havens for birds and other animals, to farming.

The ultimate goal of the project is to get a national certification of WDR 73, allowing it to be broadly disseminated to farmers. The project is part of a larger effort by China, African countries and UNEP to develop better rice varieties, improve livelihoods and bolster food security.

Pic courtesy:, Source: UNEP


Paddies: A field where rice is grown.

Propel: Spur or drive into a particular situation.

Greenhouse gas: A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect on planets. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3).



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