Scientist develops new wheat varieties that can withstand heat
I have been using many of these new varieties of wheat for the past three years and have even shared it with fellow farmers. The results have been great. The yield is 1015% more.
RAM VILAS PATEL, farmer
PRAYAGRAJ : A 78-year-old Prayagraj-based genetic scientist has developed nine special heat and waterlogging-tolerant wheat varieties which are helping farmers in pockets of Uttar Pradesh face the challenges of climate change.
The innovation comes amid growing concern over falling farm output, including that of wheat, owing to rising temperature and unpredictable rainfall.
The senior scientist, Mahabal Ram, is professor (emeritus) at Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Science (SHUATS) here.
Mahabal Ram said, “These new wheat varieties can tolerate temperature as high as 40 to 42 degrees Celsius against 30 to 32 degrees of average regular varieties, sown by farmers traditionally. Many of the varieties can even withstand water logging for even 7-8 days and still flourish.”
Around 2,000 farmers in 11 districts have started cultivating these nine new wheat varieties. These districts where the new wheat varieties are being grown include Prayagraj (Allahabad), Kaushambi, Pratapgarh, Fatehpur, Mirzapur, Varanasi, Jaunpur, Azamgarh, Ghazipur and Mahoba.
The UP State Variety Release Committee, Lucknow, released the seeds of the new varieties for use after the scientist and his team held regular demonstrations for farmers in their villages as well as on the SHUATS campus.
Prof Ram, an eminent geneticist and plant breeder of international repute, said the State Variety Release Committee (UP, Lucknow) released nine location specific ‘photo-thermo-insensitive’ (heat tolerant) semidwarf high yielding varieties of wheat after thorough testing in multi-location trials conducted for three years.
YP Singh, member of the UP State Variety Release Committee, Lucknow, vouched for the quality and effectiveness of the wheat varieties developed by prof Mahabal Ram.
“The wheat varieties developed by this eminent scientist are a boon for the farmers. The varieties are very resilient and give high yield, despite high temperatures and sudden rainfall. They are effective in dealing with the impact of the climate change being felt by the farmers and, therefore, being adopted by a large number of them in their fields,” said Singh, who is a principal scientist at the Lucknow regional centre of the ICAR-Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal.
“Out of these, AAI-W4, SHIATS-W10 and AAI-W13 were released for timely sowing in irrigated condition (November20-30); SHIATS-W6, AAI-W7, AAI-W8 and SHIATS-W9 for irrigated late sowing (December 20-30); AAI-W8 for mid late sow- ing (December 10-20) and AAIW15 and AAI-W21 have been recommended for rain-fed areas,” Ram said.
“The reaction of farmers to the SHUATS wheat varieties is very favourable and we estimate over 2,000 farmers to be using these varieties already. Till now, our SHIATS-W6 variety has been planted in over 1 lakh hectare farming area of UP. It was notified by the government of India in 2014 and its seeds are now being produced by UP Seeds Corporation, Lucknow, and being distributed by it to farmers.
All the wheat varieties developed by us are becoming popular among farmers of UP because of their versatility in adaptability and a high degree of tolerance to heat, besides higher yield,” he said.
He credited the success to the support of SHUATS VC prof RB Lal, under whose leadership the wheat breeding research programme was going on.
▪ Prof Mahabal Ram in a field with a crop of the wheat.