KENYA – A team of researchers from the University of Embu, led by Dr. Jane Mwangi and Dr. Patrick Kamau, has achieved a significant breakthrough in rice cultivation by developing a hybrid variety of Basmati rice.

This new hybrid has demonstrated a remarkable improvement in rice yields, with the potential to increase production from 4.1 tonnes to 11 tonnes per hectare.

According to the researchers, the diligent efforts of this research team aims at addressing the urgent need to enhance agricultural productivity in the rice growing regions in Kenya.

Additionally, their success in developing this hybrid Basmati rice variety is poised to revolutionize rice farming.

The milestone comes at a time when the government, through the  National   Rice Development Strategy has committed to increase rice production from the current 128,000 tonnes to 846,000 tonnes annually, a sevenfold by 2030.

The ambitions follow the implementation of the second phase of the NRDS 2019-2030 which is ongoing and seeks to increase local rice production to a level where Kenya becomes self-sufficient.

In the country, the per capita consumption of rice  has risen sharply from 12kgs in 2016 to 28kgs in 2022, putting the demand at 1.2 million tonnes.

To  meet this demand, the National Rice Development Strategy is focused on developing new rice varieties that require less water to grow and produce better yields.

Speaking on the breakthrough, Dr. Kamau highlighted that the advantages of this new hybrid variety are particularly noteworthy, offering the potential to make a significant impact on rice cultivation in the region.

The substantial increase in yield per hectare is expected to contribute positively to food security and economic prosperity, providing farmers with an opportunity to significantly enhance their production and income.

This groundbreaking innovation holds the promise of addressing challenges related to food scarcity and poverty, providing a sustainable solution for farmers and communities.

The hybrid Basmati rice variety offers the prospect of improved productivity and enhanced agricultural sustainability for farmers.

Dr. Jane Mwangi expressed optimism about the potential transformation of the agricultural landscape and the positive impact on farmers’ lives through continuous innovation and collaboration.

Since most of basmati varieties rely on flood irrigation, a water intensive method, the researchers said that a new variety with drought tolerant genes are underway.

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