Although Indonesia is the world’s third largest grower of rice, it still must import rice almost every year, mainly to keep reserves at a safe level. The main reasons for the gap can be traced to farmers using non-optimal production techniques and to the fact that each person in the country consumes an average 150 kg of rice per year – an extremely high consumption rate. In addition, smallholder farmers, with less than 0.8 ha of land, account for 90 percent of Indonesia’s rice production and so cannot take advantage of economies of scale in their production. Indonesia encourages technological innovation in its goal of reaching self-sufficiency in rice production.
Indonesia encourages technological innovation in its goal of reaching self-sufficiency in rice production. In addition to promoting improved rice infrastructure, including irrigation planning, it also supports the plant mutation breeding work of the National Nuclear Energy Agency of Indonesia (BATAN). BATAN has a long history of success, breeding crop varieties that bring higher yields to meet the needs of Indonesian farmers. Now, it is expanding this success – still breeding for yield but also focusing on specific quality parameters, meaning that it seeks varieties that have the taste and texture that consumers are increasingly looking for.
To date, BATAN has developed 23 mutant rice varieties. It typically contracts with certified seed breeding companies that multiply the seeds for dissemination and then market the new seeds to farmers, hosting harvest fairs to introduce farmers to the advantages of adopting the new varieties.
PB Salewangang, one of Indonesia’s most respected producers of certified seed, chose farmers in Gowa, in South Sulawesi, to multiply the seeds of six of BATAN’s latest mutant varieties. This area was chosen because, while it has top-grade soil, farmers there do not really prosper as they should, mainly because they have insufficient supply of good quality rice seeds that would ensure high yields and a profitable return.
In 2016, those farmers growing BATAN’s new Sidenuk, DiahSuci and Mira-1 rice varieties had a 150 percent increase in yield compared with conventional paddy seeds and were indeed able to supply 3 percent of the seed required by the entire South Sulawesi province. The success inspired other farmers to use the company’s seeds. In 2017, the company chose 18 farmers to plant six mutant varieties and, with the March 2018 harvest, the six varieties had averaged a 50 percent increase in yield.
These new rice mutant varieties are especially important today because they are adaptable to climate change variability. Already, 4.7 percent of Indonesia’s rice fields are cultivated with high-yielding mutant varieties of rice. This means that 800 000 farmers are involved, and they are producing enough rice for 20 million people. BATAN recognizes the value of these high yielding varieties and, in collaboration with some local governments and the Ministry of Agriculture, it has established Agro Techno Parks (ATPs) in some provinces which are expected to become centers of excellence for developing certified seeds of mutant varieties and related technologies to support food production under climate-smart agriculture.
Source: International Atomic Energy Agency | 8 August 2018