|Hybrid rice has particularly good
potential to improve the food security of poor countries where arable land is
scarce, populations are expanding and labour is cheap|
Rice science has made great advances.
During past decades increasing demand for rice has been met mainly through
yield-enhancing measures of the "Green Revolution" in the 1970s, which
introduced improved rice varieties and improved production technologies.
In recent years, effective application
of research advances has been slow, especially in areas of physical stresses,
such as drought, flooding, salinity and acidity. During the same period, the
rice-consuming population has continued to grow, while land and water resources
for rice production are diminishing.
Science provides the basis for improving
the productivity and efficiency of rice-based systems. Improved technologies
enable farmers to grow more rice on limited land with less water, labour and
pesticides, thus reducing damage to the environment. In addition, improved
plant breeding, weed and pest control, water management, and nutrient-use efficiency
increase productivity, reduce the cost, and improve the quality of the products
of rice-based production systems. New rice varieties are under development that
exhibit enhanced nutritional value, minimize post harvest losses and have
increased resistance to drought and pests.
Recent advances in hybrid rice and the
new rice for Africa (NERICA) are just two examples of the contributions of
science to the development of rice. Furthermore, public and private research
institutions have worked together to determine the nucleic acid sequence of the
entire rice genome. The resulting DNA database will assist in the creation of a
new generation of rice varieties, including – in the not distant future –
varieties with improved nutritional qualities. Partnerships between CGIAR
centres, National Agricultural Research Systems and the private sector,
especially in the area of modern biotechnology, should be strengthened to
improve rice quality, productivity and efficiency in rice production.