Scientists at the Kerala Agricultural University’s Vyttila Rice Research Station (RRS) are moving closer to successfully introducing genes that build submergence tolerance and salt resistance into Kerala’s staple rice varieties Uma, Jyoti and Jaya.

Experiments are on to transfer the gene that helps build resistance to salt, Saltol; and the gene that helps build submergence resistance, Sub-1, from pokkali rice varieties, which are salt-resistant and are common to coastal areas of the districts of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur.

A senior scientist at the RRS said on Monday that the gene-marker-assisted breeding programme has been on for about a year. It would take about three years to reach the field trial stage and the field trials will take up about three years more. Once the new breeds are developed, they are to be introduced into Kerala’s predominantly rice-growing areas like Kuttanad, which has seen saline water intrusion in recent years. Similar has been the case with the kole fields of Thrissur district, said the scientist.

The scientist said that Kuttanad has been using the Uma variety of rice while the kol fields in Thrissur have used Jyoti variety.

Palakkad district has seen wide use Uma and Jyoti. Jaya is a favourite at the national level too.

The RRS added a 3,000 sq.ft. tissue culture laboratory on Monday, the facility having been inaugurated by the Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan. The new facility is meant to produce orchids and banana (nendran) plants.

A senior scientist said that the new facility would help the centre increase the production of tissue-cultured banana plants to about six lakh per year. Currently the centre produces between 2.5 and three lakh plants, which are distributed through various outlets.

The centre sent about two lakh plants to the Anakkayam centre of Kerala Agricultural University in Malappuram district.

The Vyttila centre will also step up production of orchid varieties, which are in great demand now, with the inauguration of the new facility, said the scientist.

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