Drought Tolerant Rice for Ensuring Food Security in Eastern India

Drought and limited availability of water serve as the serious limitation for rice production
in rainfed ecosystems. Among the major rainfed rice-cultivating areas, states of eastern India occupy
one of the largest drought-prone ecologies in the world. Cultivating drought tolerant rice varieties
can serve as the most coherent approach to ensure food security in these areas. International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI), along with its national collaborators, has developed drought tolerant rice
varieties possessing high yield along with desirable grain quality. One such conventionally bred
line, IR74371-70-1-1, has been released with different names in the different countries: in India as
Sahbhagi Dhan, in Nepal as Sukha Dhan 3, and in Bangladesh as BRRI Dhan 56. This indicates the
suitability of this line to show better performance across the wide range of environments. Sahbhagi
Dhan is a short duration variety that has genetic drought tolerance and is more efficient at extracting
available moisture from the soil. During drought years, farmers cultivating Sahbhagi Dhan obtained
the yield advantage of 0.8 to 1.6 t ha−1 over currently grown long duration as well as traditional
varieties. In 2012, when the paddy crop was hit by drought, Sahbhagi Dhan revealed the yield
advantage of more than a t ha−1
, which reduced to 0.78 and 0.56 t ha−1 during non-drought years of
2013 and 2014, respectively. Data taken from head to head trials during 2017 showed that Sahbhagi
Dhan exhibited better performance over the existing rice varieties grown by farmers even under
non-drought conditions. The important feature of Sahbhagi Dhan is its evident impact under drought
and no yield penalty under favorable conditions over the counterfactual varieties of the same duration.
Along with better yield under drought, the important advantage of Sahbhagi Dhan is the short
maturity duration of this variety. This allows the farmers to advance the succeeding crop and creates
an opportunity for accommodating an additional crop under favorable rainfed ecology, thereby
enhancing the cropping intensity. Since the majority of the farmers living in drought prone ecologies
are socio-economically under privileged, Sahbhagi Dhan, along with other drought tolerant varieties,
can serve as one of the most viable and deliverable technologies for eradicating poverty from these
ecologies dependent on rainfed rice.