Cultivating ryot amiability
Rasi Seeds has been the first to engineer genetic variability to suit various agro climatic zones with wider adaptability by producing hybrids of various staple lengths, high strength and a biotic stress tolerance in cotton.
Rasi Seeds, envisioned by M Ramasami and launched 1973 at Attur in Salem district, Tamil Nadu, is one of the leading bioagri companies in India. The company which led the Bt cotton seeds sales in India in the last two years, is the second largest Bt cotton seeds company by value in 2007-08 with total Bt cotton sales of Rs 293.28 crore. Though the company sold 50.5 lakh packets of Bt cotton, Rasi Seeds' sales revenues were marginally lower than that in 2006-07. One of the main reasons for this change has been the lower prices of Bt cotton seeds. Rasi Seeds Bt cotton was cultivated on nearly 50 lakh acres of cotton fields.
Rasi Seeds has made rapid advances from seed production and supply ventures to a commendable position in R&D because of the remarkable services of R Krishnamurthy, renowned for his extra long staple superfine cotton variety Suvin and the popular Medium Staple variety LRA 5166.
Having excelled in R&D in cotton seeds, it went on to expand into a multi-crop, multi-location quality research movement and has proved beneficial to the farming community. The company aims to create genetic variability to suit various agro climatic zones with wider adaptability by producing hybrids of various staple lengths, high strength and a biotic stress tolerance in cotton. The R&D unit is recognized by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, New Delhi.
Realizing the potential of biotechnological innovation, Rasi Seeds has built a state-of-the-art biotechnology facility at its headquarters at Attur. The major research areas include molecular biology, genetic engineering of crops for various traits and crops viral diseases diagnostics.
The company has a well maintained research farm of 140 acres, about 55,000 sft contained green house, separate ginning facility for germplasm and other breeding lines, state-of-the-art fiber testing lab (HVI), well-equipped seed testing laboratory, separate dehumidified refrigerated facility for germplasm and breeding lines. The company also has a state-of-the-art biotech facility for testing the presence of Bt gene.
Rasi is the recipient of a national award for R&D from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, New Delhi. It is the second company to obtain approval for Bt cotton for its popular RCH 2 Bt. RCH 2 is one among the very few proprietary research hybrids that has been notified by the Government of India. The cotton hybrids RCH2, RCH 20, RCH 134 and RCH 138 were among the top ranking hybrids in the All India Co-ordinated Cotton Improvement Project.
Rasi Seeds has done extensive research for crop improvement incorporating latest technology in breeding techniques and is aiming for hybrids with earliness, high quality and drought tolerance. RCH 2 especially created history by its remarkable yield in farmers' fields. The company has released fourteen elite Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation with approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. With that, Rasi emerged first in the number of Bt cotton released in India. Also many more hybrids are in pipeline to cover different segments in India.
The company, well known for its pioneering efforts in hybrid cotton, once again proved itself by ushering in the Bt cotton (insect resistant cotton) technology. The company entered into tie-up with Monsanto in 1999 to commercialize hybrid cotton with Bollgard technology. The second company in the Indian seed industry to do so with its hybrids and got approval for commercial release of RCH 2 Bt for the central and south zones, RCH 118 Bt, RCH 138 Bt, RCH 144 Bt RCH 377 Bt for the central zone, RCH 134 Bt and RCH 317 Bt RCH 308 Bt and RCH 314 Bt for the north zone and RCH 20 Bt and RCH 368 Bt RCH 371 Bt, RCH 111 Bt and RCHB 708 Bt for the south zone. Also many more hybrids are in pipeline to cover all cotton growing zones.
"MNCs are very strong on the technology front. Among Indian seed companies, only very few companies are struggling to attain technological capabilities, but they are very weak in financial status when compared to MNCs. The interference in the pricing of quality value added hybrid seeds by state governments is creating a negative impact on indigenous seed companies in their efforts," pointed out M Ramasami, managing director, Rasi Seeds.
Rasi's ongoing projects include sourcing and evaluation of germplasm lines breeding for new lines with earliness, erect leaves, orange flint and orange yellow semi dent grain colors, development of new single cross, modified single cross and three-way cross hybrids for evaluation and identification of high yield hybrid combinations and maintenance breeding for parental purity. Rasi group also explores the new trends in the industry like the corporate and contract farming, which will provide a win-win solution to corporate/farmer, spinner, ginner and seed company.
R& D infrastructure
Conventional breeding: Elite hybrids development through conventional breeding in crops like cotton, maize, rice, wheat, okra, tomato chilli, gourds, and pearl millet.