Farmers are yet to get any benefit from the jute genome sequence even nine years after it was decoded by Bangladeshi scientists, according to Bangladesh Jute Research Institute officials.
BJRI scientists said that the research still continued for development of different pathogen-resistant and salinity-resistant jute varieties for cultivation.
BJRI director general M Asaduzzaman told New Age on Saturday last that it would take much more time to develop disease-resistant jute varieties and provide them to farmers.
‘When farmers will start getting benefits, that would be the success of the jute genome research,’ he said.
In February last, a new jute variety was released by the National Seed Board nine years after the research in the genome sequencing project, taken up and led by Bangladeshi scientist Maqsudul Alam, decoded the jute plant’s complete set of genetic instructions in 2010.
Officials said that the released seeds of the new variety were being cultivated for demonstration in different districts under BJRI regional offices.
Bangladesh was once known worldwide for jute, the golden fibre, when the main cash crop earned the majority foreign exchange for undivided Pakistan and later for the independent country.
Agriculturists have said that jute fibre yield could be reduced by 30 per cent due to a pathogen – M. phaseolina hyphae – which initially invades the cortical tissue of jute plants, followed by sclerotia formation, causing the ‘stem rot’ disease to jute plants.
Asked, BJRI director for agriculture research Md Mujibur Rahman told New Age on Sunday last that in light of the jute genome sequence findings, BJRI Tossa Pat-8 (Robi-1), a new variety, had been released this year for experimental cultivation.
‘But this variety has not been made resistant to the ‘rot disease’,’ he said, adding that research was still going on to develop better-quality and pathogen-resistant jute varieties.
According to BJRI officials, about five tonnes of seeds of the newly developed high-yielding jute variety – BJRI Tossa Pat-8 (Robi-1) – were produced and distributed to cultivators.
The new variety has a potential of 20 per cent higher yield, they said, adding that this variety was expected to produce ‘finer and stronger fibre.’
This variety of seeds has been distributed among farmers through the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation and the Department of Agricultural Extension and the farmers are growing the jute on their demonstration plots in Faridpur, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Jashore, Cumilla and Kishoreganj.
More decoded jute varieties, including Robi-2, are currently under process for official release, he said, adding that they were also developing high-yielding and saline- and pest-tolerant jute varieties, to be released soon.
Jute grower Faruq Ahmed of Bajitpur, Kishoreganj, on Friday said that he was cultivating jute on five acres of land after purchasing the seeds from the local market.
He does not know, he said further, about the discovery of the jute genome sequence and about new development of jute varieties.
Of the five acres of land he is cultivating jute on, there is tossa growing on three acres and kenaf and other local varieties on the rest.
‘When jute plants are affected by diseases, I use pesticides to cure them,’ he said.
According to the seed wing of the agriculture ministry, a total of 6,066 tonnes of jute seeds were required in the 2017-18 fiscal year to bring 7.58 lakh hectares of land under jute cultivation.
In meeting the demand, the BADC supplied 236 tonnes while the DAE 26 tonnes of quality jute seeds, seed wing officials said.
Bangladesh heavily depends on Indian seeds for jute cultivation as over 95 per cent of the required jute seeds are imported from India every year, according to sources.
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