Abstract: In Asia and Africa the poor tend to live in marginal environments where droughts and floods are frequent. Global warming is expected to increase the frequency of these weather-induced perturbations of crop production. Drought tolerance (DT) has been one of the most difficult traits to improve in genetic crop improvement programs worldwide. Biotechnology provides breeders with a number of new tools that may help to develop more drought tolerant varieties such as marker assisted selection (MAS), molecular breeding (MB), and transgenic plants. This paper assesses some preliminary evidence on the potential impact of biotechnology using data from surveys of the initial DT cultivars developed through one of the main programs in Asia that has been funding DT rice breeding since 1998—The Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilient Crops for Water-Limited Environments program in China, India, and Thailand. Yield increases of DT rice varieties are 5 to 10 percent better than conventional varieties or currently grown commercial varieties than it has been in years. So far we only have experiment station evidence that DT varieties yielded better than conventional or improved varieties during moderate drought years (the one drought year during our study period in South India gave inconclusive results) and in severe drought both the DT and the conventional varieties were either not planted or, if planted, did not yield. We find that the governments could help overcome some of the constraints to the spread of DT cultivars by increasing government funding of DT research programs that take advantage of new biotech techniques and new knowledge from genomics. Secondly, public scientists can make breeding lines with DT traits and molecular markers more easily available to the private seed firms so that they can incorporate DT traits into their commercial hybrids particularly for poor areas. Third, governments can subsidize private sector production of DT seed or provide more government money for state extension services to produce DT varieties.
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Pray, C.; Nagarajan, L.; Li, L.; Huang, J.; Hu, R.; Selvaraj, K.; Napasintuwong, O.; Babu, R.C. Potential Impact of Biotechnology on Adaption of Agriculture to Climate Change: The Case of Drought Tolerant Rice Breeding in Asia. Sustainability 2011, 3, 1723-1741.
Pray C, Nagarajan L, Li L, Huang J, Hu R, Selvaraj K, Napasintuwong O, Babu RC. Potential Impact of Biotechnology on Adaption of Agriculture to Climate Change: The Case of Drought Tolerant Rice Breeding in Asia. Sustainability. 2011; 3(10):1723-1741.
Pray, Carl; Nagarajan, Latha; Li, Luping; Huang, Jikun; Hu, Ruifa; Selvaraj, K.N.; Napasintuwong, Ora; Babu, R. Chandra. 2011. "Potential Impact of Biotechnology on Adaption of Agriculture to Climate Change: The Case of Drought Tolerant Rice Breeding in Asia." Sustainability 3, no. 10: 1723-1741.