Record food grain production in 2018, R&D bottleneck risks future growth

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Appreciating crop breeders with high regard, he said Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) scientists developed at least fifty new rice varieties between 2009 and 2019

Bangladesh registered record food grain production in 2018 on the back of decades of research and development (R&D) and the government’s institutional support. However, the country’s farm sector lacks serious cross breeding in the second decade of the current century. 

Dr Shahidur Rashid Bhuiyan, professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University in Dhaka, said this presenting the keynote paper at the inaugural session of their 11th Biennial conference organized by the Plant Breeding and Genetics Society of Bangladesh (PBGSB) in the capital on Saturday.

Professor Bhuiyan, also pro vice-chancellor of the university, citing government data, said the continuous increase in crop production has been phenomenal over the past decade where the country’s food grain production reached 41.5 million metric tons in 2018.

He identified sustained efforts, particularly through the development and adaptation of high yield varieties of crop, the use of modern methods of management technologies, and government policy interventions over the past four decades, as the key determinants of this significant achievement. 

Appreciating crop breeders with high regard, he said Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) scientists developed at least fifty new rice varieties between 2009 and 2019. 

Wheat breeders developed 10 wheat varieties, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) scientists released 64 tubers, 55 vegetables, 43 fruits, 22 species, 16 flower, and 7 oil crops, he added. 

Crop breeders work to make our food, fiber, and industrial crops more productive and nutritious which provide for an expanding global population with increasing dietary expectations.

Most crop varieties are the result of collection, evaluation, and release. No serious cross breeding was initiated even in the second decade of the 21st century, the professor emphasized. 

“The absence of a National Plant Genetic Resource Institute has restricted access and opportunity in promoting plant genetic resources, activities, and meaningful development programs in the country,” he added. 

Professor Bhuiyan also emphasized the need for an urgent formulation of rules and regulations to use the Plant Variety Protection Act 2019, that would in turn result in enhancing breeding activities in the private sector, and encourage private sector companies to undertake programs for the introduction of genetically modified varieties (GMV) and other inbred varieties from abroad, to release them for commercial cultivation.  

PBGSB President Dr Khairul Bashar told the Dhaka Tribune that they have received 99 research papers and journal articles. 

During the event, two senior scientists have been recognized with the National Plant Breeding Award-2019. It is expected that some forty presentations will be made before the participants in five sessions during the conference. More than five hundred plant breeders and research associates, representing public and private sector agencies, have participated in the program.

Professor Dr. AKM Aminul Islam, general secretary of PBGSB, Anwar Faruque, former secretary of The Ministry of Agriculture, National Agricultural Research System (NARS) Krishibid Kazi M Badruzzaman, and Dr FH Ansary, managing director and CEO of ACI Agriculture, among others, were present at the inaugural session.  

Humans around the world have an increasing appetite for diverse and nutritious foods. Feeding the world is no easy task. The answer lies in using the croplands we have in the most sustainable ways. Crop breeders work to develop crop varieties that are more productive and more nutritious, despite challenging environmental conditions.