Despite being an agrarian economy, India continues to remain largely dependent on the unpredictable monsoons. Every year, due to adverse climate phenomena, farmers face huge crop loss owing to lack of adequate irrigation. With such a scenario, Bioseed Research India (BRI), a Hyderabad-based company and International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) joined hands to find a possible solution.
Dr Paresh Verma, research director, Bioseed Reseach India, said that the work on developing drought tolerant genotypes was undertaken keeping in mind the Indian requirements. He added, "The frequency and intensity of drought is increasing by the day. Water resources are getting exhausted and even those areas which have access to water, lack power supply to irrigate their fields. In such a scenario, research on drought tolerant varieties of essential crops like rice can be very critical."
In 2007, Bioseed Research India applied for and was successfully awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Initiative (SBIRI) grant amounting to Rs5.35 lakh, more than two-thrids of which was in the form of grant and soft loans to the two research organizations for developing drought-tolerant varieties of rice in association with ICGEB. Scientists at the Plant Molecular Biology Laboratory in ICGEB, through painstaking research, isolated several genes that were thought to provide tolerance to crops in drought conditions. A team of researchers at BRI then transferred these genes to the relevant plant species using genetic techniques. Proof-of-concept studies carried out in controlled conditions helped them narrow down to three genes that were showing measurable activity in the plants. Since drought tolerance is a complex trait, no single gene is said to confer tolerance in a plant. Hence these isolated genes are assumed to play a complementary role in conferring tolerance.
The ambitious project was completed in 2011 and as a testimony to its success and innovative nature, ICGEB and BRI were awarded the ‘Best Innovation in Agriculture Sector' award at the Innovator 2012 Awards organized by BIRAC.