Record rice yields for Egypt
FAO-led project to solve rice production gap
5 September 2006, Rome/Krasnodar (Russia) - Egypt has achieved record rice yields with varieties that included hybrids developed locally under an FAO-led project.
“The world’s highest national average rice yield in 2005 was 9.5 tonnes per hectare from Egypt,” the Executive Secretary of the International Rice Commission, Mr Nguu Nguyen, told an international scientific conference on sustainable rice production in Krasnodar, Russia today.
Egypt's average yields were boosted by the introduction of newly-developed hybrid varieties such as SK 2034 and SK 2046, which outperformed the best local varieties by 20-30 percent. They were selected from more than 200 hybrid varieties under the FAO-led project, intended to help Egypt produce more rice with less water and less land.
Implemented by the Cairo Agricultural Research Centre and the Rice Research and Training Centre (RRTC), the project also helped train seed breeders and production personnel as well as extension workers and farmers.
The new hybrids are aimed at increasing Egyptian rice output to resolve a national production gap stemming from population growth of 2.2 percent a year combined with increasingly limited land and water resources. Egypt’s population is set to increase from a current 75 million to 100 million inhabitants by 2025. Three million tons of rice will be needed by 2010 compared with current requirements of 2.8 million tonnes.
Egypt’s appetite for rice mirrors growing international demand for what is already the world’s most widely-consumed food. Rice is the fastest-increasing food crop in Africa for example.
Globally, 618 million tonnes of rice was produced in 2005 but with world population growing by more than 70 million a year, an extra 153 million tonnes will be needed by 2030.
Despite Egypt’s success, and progress towards a new generation of varieties, hybrid rice seed production is not a panacea. There are, for example, a number of countries lacking technical skills and infrastructure to carry out hybrid rice seed production programmes.
In the medium term, increasing rice production in such countries could require a different approach, one based on introduction of better crop management practices, Mr Nguyen said.
“The results from pilot tests in developing countries since 2000 have demonstrated that very high yield with existing varieties can be obtained with improved crop management (ICM),” he noted.
In the Philippines, for instance, ICM had almost doubled yields of testing farmers from 4.5 tonnes/ha to over 8 tonnes/ha, he added.
ICM includes such practices as setting planting dates to expose crops to higher solar radiation, optimizing seeding density, balanced plant nutrition and careful water management.
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