This paper describes the huge potential impact that products of client-oriented breeding (COB) in Nepal can have on improving rice production in Bangladesh. Studies in Bangladesh found that short duration rice (SDR) varieties bred by COB in Nepal out-performed all other varieties.
Participatory research on transplanted main season (t. aman) rice was conducted in 2003 in the HBT of Bangladesh to identify farmer-preferred rice varieties that gave high returns, fitted with local cropping patterns and that could enhance productivity and crop diversity. In 2003, over 190 farmers participated in the trials and in seed production.
Eleven rice varieties were introduced from Nepal. The first five varieties had previously been identified using participatory method by the NGO Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD) and CAZS, University of Wales, Bangor. The remaining six varieties were bred using client-oriented breeding by a LI-BIRD-CAZS-NARC collaboration.
Participatory varietal selection (PVS) was used to test the varieties in mother and baby trials. In these trials farmers tested the varieties in their fields using farmers' levels of inputs. The rice varieties were evaluated using focus group discussion, preference ranking, household level questionnaires and in depth interviews.
Grain and straw yields of the SDRs from Nepal were similar to, or exceeded, the check varieties that were the farmers' customary varieties and the recent, recommended varieties from BRRI. The highest yielding, Judi 567, out-yielded the most productive check variety, Swarna, by 34%. All the SDRs from Nepal were significantly earlier than the check varieties and as much as three to four weeks earlier than the most widely grown variety Swarna.
Most of the new varieties were preferred to the check varieties in all locations because of their early maturity, high yield potential, good grain quality, market price, input responsiveness, lodging-resistance and ease of threshing.
The majority of collaborating farmers intended to grow the test entries in the either or both of the main (aman) or boro (winter) seasons. The demand for the seeds of new varieties is increasing in all the project villages. Farmer-to-farmer seed spread was found.
Farmers decided to grow the SDRs during the boro season because they had appreciated their performance in the previous season. They said that the SDRs:
• Overall out-yielded all the existing boro rice varieties by over 30%.
• Were considered 'khara sahinsh', meaning drought-tolerant, by the participating farmers. There was a saving of 2-3 irrigations with SDRs as they matured earlier and were more drought-tolerant.
• Required less fertilizer and were more responsive to the applied inputs.
• Did not lodge.
• Have better grain quality, required less cooking time and taste better.
• Fetched a similar price in the market to that of the best selling boro varieties, such as Minikit.
Monitoring showed that 410 kg of seed of various SDRs was distributed to 67 farmers by 11 farmers in the villages (a six-fold increase in farmer number, and averaging over 6 kg of seed per farmer).
The project has greatly increased farmer access to a choice of new, short duration, farmer-preferred rice varieties in the rural HBT of Bangladesh using a simple, rapid, and cost-effective approach to identifying and disseminating new rice varieties.