Development of hybrid crop varieties
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world where the demand for food is increasing every day. The agricultural land is decreasing due to various reasons such as urbanisation, industrialisation, rural housing, river erosion, etc. To achieve food security, we seek to increase food production through the development and cultivation of hybrid varieties of different crops.
BRAC has initiated research and development activities on hybrid rice and maize since the inception of hybrid rice research and development activities in Bangladesh. It has also introduced parent materials from China and evaluated it under Bangladesh’s conditions. Until 2010, BRAC has released six hybrid rice varieties: HB 09, Jagoran, Shakti, Shakti 2, Alloran and Sathi. In addition, three hybrid maize and eight vegetable varieties were also developed and approved for commercial cultivation by the National Seed Board. Out of the three hybrid maize, one is the quality protein maize (QPM). Hybrid seeds development programme will continue under AFSP. Due to the rapid development of poultry and fishery industries in the country, the demand for maize cultivation has escalated sharply. This demand can be fulfilled by growing hybrid maize. The potential yield and production of hybrid maize is much higher than that of rice and wheat. Currently, government organisations and NGOs are producing over 1.3 million tons of maize every year, and most of the hybrid seeds are produced from the imported parent materials from abroad.
Development of inbred crop varieties
Elite germplasm of cultivated crops having special characteristics of agronomic interest are collected from the relevant technology centres of the world to be preserved. Observational agronomic trials are being conducted on the germplasm evaluation and after screening, only the promising lines with specific agronomic traits are identified as genetic resources. These will be used for hybridisation to develop new varieties. Cross-breeding programmes will be continued to create promising varieties with specific agronomic traits of interest such as potential for high-yield and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress conditions.
Huge numbers of variability are going to be created through hybridisation and/or induced mutation breeding techniques using gamma irradiation or chemical mutagens like ethyl methane sulphonate (EMS) or sodium azide. Early maturing and stress-tolerant (salinity, drought and submergence) lines are going to be selected to develop early maturing varieties (100 days) with moderate to complete resistance to pest and diseases along with high-yield potential.
Routine observation yield trial (OYT), advance yield trial (AYT), zonal yield trial (ZYT) and rapid generation advance trial (RGAT) will be conducted through farmers' participatory approach in the farmers' fields. New genotypes or advance lines will be tested. Varieties of selections will then be done on the basis of demand and location.
Plant biotechnological research
BRAC has a sophisticated plant biotechnology laboratory to produce disease-free plantlets through micro-propagation of various crops, using tissue culture, anther culture and other advanced techniques for rapid multiplication. The laboratory is associated with six green houses for hardening in-vitro plantlets before distributing the seedlings in the field, as well as for off-season seedling production to fulfil the increasing demand. At present, the laboratory is being used for producing plantlets of potato, banana, medicinal plants, fruits and some other ornamental plants like flowers and cacti.
Low-cost technologies are being developed for the establishment of protocol for micro-propagation of crop plants. This is for the purpose of rapid generation advance (RGA) of crops like vegetables, potato, banana, grape, papaya, stevia, flowers, cacti etc. with specific characters, through tissue culture, anther culture and other advanced bio-technological approaches.
On-farm conservation of biodiversity
Local and exotic varieties with special premium quality and nutritional characteristics (fine and coarse grain) and resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses of different crops are going to be grown and maintained under field conditions. For the purpose of long-term conservation of the biodiversity of genetic resources, on-farm trials are going to be conducted with the high profile elite lines. Steps will be taken through the implementation of the project for the following reasons:
Approximately 113 aromatic and 68 non-aromatic rice varieties are maintained for rice biodiversity conservation at BRAC’s agriculture research and development centre in Gazipur. This has also increased the diverse genetic pool for future genetic gain from these varieties.
Conducting agronomic experiments
Agronomic experiments and other field trials are going to be conducted for evaluation, generation advancement and stabilisation of selected lines/varieties of crops. Experiments will be conducted at different agro-ecological zones of Bangladesh to evaluate agronomic performance in terms of yield and other relevant traits of interest. Reaction to diseases and pest incidences with the varieties/advance lines will be properly addressed at the time of the evaluation trials. Experiments will also be conducted to validate and scale up the agricultural production technologies at farmers' fields.
Innovative research on agronomic management of different hybrid and inbred varieties will continue to advance the extension of hybrid and high-yielding varieties in unfavourable environments.
Aquaculture in gher and seasonal floodplains
Gher, or fish enclosures are predominantly used in polder areas of south-western parts of Bangladesh for aquaculture. BRAC is implementing development activities to improve the productivity of gher through better management of resources. Improved production packages are extended to participants through participatory demonstration and training. Diversified use of the gher through rice-fish culture, dyke farming (cultivating vegetables and fruits on each side of the gher) is also demonstrated to maximise the profit and improve livelihood. The year-round activities in gher aquaculture are now gaining popularity in small households in the polder areas of Bangladesh.
BRAC has taken the initiative to utilise large, seasonal floodplains for fish production through a community-based approach. This is aimed at bringing the large proportion of fallow waterbodies under production, fingerlings stocking of indigenous and exotic species at appropriate densities, meeting the protein demand, and engaging communities towards a sustainable production system. People from areas adjacent to a water body have been encouraged to form a group, which will be responsible for fisheries. This approach has been proven as socially acceptable and economically profitable, helping to boost household income and fish consumption.
Similarly, indigenous fish species, particularly the smaller ones, are on the verge of extinction due to various natural and man-made interventions. BRAC took initiatives to conserve the small, indigenous fish species through community-based fisheries in the seasonal floodplains of Bangladesh.
Performance of DT-NERICA and GSR
Performance of hybrid and inbred rice
Performance of newly bred IRRI Hybrid Rice
Performance of Sub Tolerant Rice
Guidelines for Dry Seeded Rice (DSR) in Bangladesh (English)
Guidelines for Dry Seeded Rice (DSR) in Bangladesh (Bangla)
Technology validation and extension:
AFSP is trying to bring available and newly developed agricultural technologies to the farmers’ fields. Our approach is to disseminate agricultural technologies through large-scale block demonstration involving farmers’ participation. Our technology dissemination strategy is to convert single-crop areas into double to triple-cropped areas, introducing stress-tolerant crops and fish varieties to the cropping systems, and accommodating high-value non-rice crops in the rice-based cropping systems using shorter maturing rice varieties.
We organise groups of 40-50 marginal farmers and provide them partial grants to cultivate and use modern varieties of crops and fish along with new production technologies and practices. Our extension staff provides them with adequate training and up-to-date information on achieving better production. Presently, we are operating our extension activities at 51 sub-districts of 12 districts in Bangladesh. Most of the operational sites are disaster and stress-prone areas of the country. We have reached out to 88,000 farmers with improved technologies by the year 2015.
Agricultural extension services are provided through our trained extension personnel, comprising a diverse group of agronomists, technical assistants and aquaculture experts. We also take advice and expertise from government-owned research and extension institutions to achieve our objectives of technology extension to the farmers’ fields.
Every year in Bangladesh, agricultural land is reduced by one per cent, while the population increases by 1.9 million. In addition, the country suffers from consistent climate threats, such as cyclones, floods, rising water levels, drought and river erosion. This results in damaged harvests and more landless and unemployed people, contributing to the rise of food prices and creating challenges in ensuring food security. We address these challenges in accordance with the government’s national agriculture policy. Our work directly addresses the sustainable development goals of ending hunger by achieving food, security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. Our work directly links to the goal of combating climate change and its impacts.
BRAC’s agriculture and food security programme is working with agricultural research, development and extension activities. BRAC’s value-chain approach to agricultural development stands as a successful example, and is now being replicated in other developing countries. It plays an important role in attaining self-sufficiency in food production in Bangladesh. The ultimate goal of the programme is to enhance food security, improve nutrition and livelihoods. This is done through agricultural research and development, technology validation and adoption of appropriate climate-resilient agricultural technology. The programme has created significant impact to increase crop and fish production by research and extension activities in the northern and southern parts of Bangladesh. It has also promoted integrated agricultural practices in gher, or fish enclosures, and community-based culture fishery in seasonal floodplains to maximise the profit and improve livelihood, meet the protein demand, and to engage communities towards a sustainable production system.
Two agricultural research and development centres at Gazipur and Bogra have been established. Applied research to develop high-yielding varieties and better crop management are the key objectives.. Presently, the focus is on rice, maize, potato, pulse, oilseed and vegetables research including the development of inbreeds and hybrid varieties. Several advanced breeding lines of rice have been developed for quality grain, high-yield and short-growth duration and are ready to be released as new varieties. Newly developed genotypes are being demonstrated in the farmers’ fields in different drought, submergence and saline-prone areas of the country.
The combination of our efforts results in enhanced livelihood and increased food production in the country, which in turn ensures food security and progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals.