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Climate Smart Rice, an effective choice for Pakistan

  • Over the years climate change has effected global food production and food security is the major threat to most of the developing countries of the world. For more than half of humanity rice is the staple food but rice and other crops are under grave threat of climate change; we see its impact through melting glaciers, rising sea levels, monster storms and intense heat waves. Rice is cultivated and eaten mostly in the” rice bowl’’ regions which consists of Asia and middle/near East countries. About 5.6 billion people consume rice in the world but highest consumption in Asian countries. It provides 21% per capita energy and 15% per capita protein. Rice provides 70% daily calories and minerals, vitamins, zinc, iron and fiber. In Pakistan rice is a 2nd staple food after wheat and is a major commodity for foreign exchange.

    Climate Smart Rice: In recent years the International Rice Research Institute has developed varieties that can survive under adverse conditions like floods, drought and salinity. Millions of farmers all around the world now have access to these climate smart rice varieties.

    Agriculture in Pakistan is facing different problems especially climate change and suddenly altering weather. Early or late onset of monsoon, extremely high temperature during summer and chilling temperature during winter, floods and drought. Salinity and water logging is also reducing our cultivated land and all these factors ultimately reducing yield. Rice being an important crop of Pakistan is facing different problems, these problems are:

    Floods: There is a long list of floods in Pakistan; in 2003, Sindh province was badly affected due to high rains.  In 2007, KPK, Sindh and costal Balochistan were affected due to monsoon. In 2010, a massive flood affected KPK and Punjab. In September 2011, flood in Sindh caused huge lose. In 2012 flood, southern Punjab, upper Sindh and KPK suffered. In August 2013, 80 people died whereas in 2014, J&K and AJK affected by massive rains.  All   floods affected thousands of hectares of arable land and ultimately economy of Pakistan. Rice plant can survive normally a week under submerged condition and then die. Millions of tons of rice lost due to these floods.

    IRRI developed SUB-1, a gene that can tolerate floods, and incorporated this gene to many popular rice varieties. Rice varieties with this gene not only give more production 1-3 ton per hectare but can also survive flooding of 10-15 days. Flood tolerance varieties has released and now planted in different countries of Asia. Pakistan should also work on these varieties to make them acclimated in local conditions. Researchers should incorporate flood tolerant gene in our local popular varieties.





    Salinity:  Millions of hectares of land in Asia and Africa are not suitable for cultivation due to high water or salts but this land was productive before. FAO estimated that globally the area under saline soil was about 397 million hectares and that of sodic soil was about 434 million hectares. In Pakistan, about 6.30 million hectares of land are salt affected of which about 1.89 million hectare are saline, 1.85 million hectare is permeable saline-sodic, 1.28 million hectare is impermeable saline-sodic, 0.028 million hectare is sodic in nature. Agriculture production is very low in salt affected areas and rice productivity is about 1.5 tons less than normal soil condition.

    IRRI has developed and released several salt tolerant varieties to different countries of Asia, these varieties not only give more production 2 tons per hectare than non-salt tolerant varieties. A gene for salinity tolerance that is saltol is introduced in these varieties. In Pakistan we can get maximum yield by growing these salt tolerant varieties and research to develop more resistant varieties.


    Drought:            Environmental stress that causes more damage is drought; it is affecting 23 million of hectares of rainfed rice in south and Southeast Asia alone. If monsoon fails to deliver rains than drought comes in Pakistan, drought of 1998-2002, is considered worst in last 50 years. Drought is considered as a factor of limiting growth performance in plants. Balochistan usually remain in drought all around the year and Pakistan’s Tharparkar district is in drought from almost 3 years. It not only affecting agriculture but also to the people living there. Pakistan is mostly in arid to semiarid region where rainfall is not sufficient for crop production, 22 mha is cultivated area out of 79.61 mha of total area of Pakistan, and 75.5% area is under irrigation and remaining area is under rainfed agriculture. Scarcity of water is a major limiting factor for crop production in  barani areas of Pakistan.


    International Rice Research Institute has developed many drought tolerant varieties and these are now being grown by several farmers all around the world. Yield advantage of these drought tolerant varieties over drought sensitive varieties is 0.8-1.2 tons per hectare under drought conditions. India, Philippines and Bangladesh are planting these varieties. Pakistan has to face water shortage due to varying rainfall patterns, so, there should be developed drought resistant varieties and/or try to acclimate existing varieties in Pakistan by field trials.


    Climate change is an emerging issue; agriculture is very much prone to this change.  Pakistan is also under great threat of climate change and now its need to change our cropping system according to climate change so that we can mitigate the effect of this change. Optimum production is also an issue, we need to grow such crop varieties that can survive under different conditions and can perform best even when conditions are not favoring crop production. Climate smart rice is also a best solution when conditions are not suitable for crop production. These rice varieties can perform best under drought, salinity and flooding conditions. It’s also need to develop such varieties that can survive when there is too high or low temperature, pest or disease resistant and even problematic soils. International Rice Research Institute is working to develop and release climate smart varieties, Pakistan should also extent research for climate smart varieties of all crops.


    Sajid Hanif, Muhammad Irshad, Abdul Shakoor, Khadija Tahseen Arshad, Jawaria Zamir Khan, Irsa Ejaz





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