UGANDA – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has partnered with a Chinese firm, Shanghai Agro-Biological Gene Centre (SAGC) to roll out a new high-yielding and weather-friendly rice variety poised to boost rice production in Uganda.

Dubbed Water Saving and Drought Resistant (WDR-73), the hybrid rice was developed by SAGC in collaboration with National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) under the recently launched Phase 3 of the FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) Programme.

According to the developers, the new ice variety will tackle issues of drought and does not need to be planted in paddies.

Charles Owach, assistant FAO representative in charge of programs reiterated the variety’s ability to boost food security and income of households while at the same time addressing climate and drought challenges.

“This rice variety will address the resource and environmental challenges faced by rice producers.”

He revealed that the hybrid has a medium maturity period of 130 days and it is tolerant to diseases such as RYMV, Rice blast, BLB, Narrow-leaf spot, and BLS.

Elaborating, Owach outlined that out of the 50 rice varieties tested from studies in Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda, WDR-73 exhibited highest potential and ability to improve yields by about 30 percent as compared to the local ones.

According to him, the variety combines both high yield potential and water savings as well as drought tolerance as compared to the irrigated paddy rice varieties, he added.

The developers also praised the hybrid for its unique qualities such as moderate aroma, straw-colored grains with a curved tip, large grains like Supa, and medium grains of 25g per 1,000 grains.

Agricultural officers trained to ensure the variety’s adoption and sustainability

To ensure sustainability, agricultural officers from 30 districts and 100 lead demonstration farmers and producers from key rice production districts were taken through a 5-day training at Wills and Wash Hotel in Mbale where they were equipped with all the necessary skills.

Owach urged farmers to adopt this new rice variety, highlighting its competitive advantages in terms of increasing incomes, safeguarding against hunger and malnutrition, and addressing climate and drought challenges.

According to officials, Pilot cultivation of WDR-73 demonstrated remarkable yield increases, ranging from 4.35 to 6.06 tonnes per hectare.

Mr Antonio Querido, FAO Representative in Uganda underscored the importance of water-saving and drought-resistant rice for food security, nutrition, and income security which at the same time addresses climate challenges such as drought.

According to him, as much as rice is a staple for more than 3.5 billion people globally, including most of the world’s poor, it can be a problematic crop to farm.

While it is an important food crop, it requires massive amounts of water and the paddies in which it grows emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”

However, he noted that the new variety tackles such issues of drought and doesn’t need to be planted in paddies.

Therefore, the launch of WDR-73 holds tremendous promise for Uganda’s agricultural landscape, empowering farmers with a climate-smart and high-yielding rice variety that not only enhances productivity but also contributes to food security, income generation, and resilience against climate change.

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