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Genetics to produce more rice

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Import of hybrid rice seed varieties and cross-breeding may be key to higher future productivity. 

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Hybrid rice imports pushed: Cross-bred strains will lift sales, productivity by Walailak Keeratipipatpong


The Thai Seed Trade Association (THASTA) is urging the government to relax its rules and allow the import of hybrid rice seed varieties to further develop commercial sales.

Mr Pacholk wants the government to relax its regulations on rice-seed imports for the sake of research, similar to its approval of private development of hybrid maize in 1982.

The association, which includes multinational seed firms, is confident these cross-bred strains would help increase productivity of Thailand's rice, which is low at 450 kilogrammes on average.

President Pacholk Pongpanich said THASTA has been attempting to convince the government to use imported hybrid rice seeds for experimental trials but imports of plant varieties are prohibited under the Agriculture Ministry's Plant Quarantine Service Act.

He encouraged the government to ease the regulations and open the door for intensive research, similar to 1982 when the government allowed private companies to develop hybrid maize.

"We used to have 3 million tonnes of maize from 12 million rai of plantations. Now Thailand is the among the world's most efficient maize producers with 4 million tonnes from only 6 million rai," he said.

THASTA has joined a committee of private and public agencies that hope to conduct experimental farms by using six locally developed hybrid rice varieties and 12 imported hybrid strains to measure productivity and quality.The trials will use the popular Thai rice varieties Kor Khor 31, Phitsanulok 2, Pathum Thani 1, and Kor Khor 41 to compare production between native and hybrid varieties.

Based on initial talks with the Rice Department, the experimental trials could be organised at departmental centres some time between July and November of this year, and December 2011 to June 2012

"Any developments for commercial purposes will be made in Thailand, and further research would enable new Thai varieties with strong properties to battle new diseases and conditions caused by climate change," Mr Pacholk said.

Though the Rice Department is enthusiastic, officials from the Agriculture Ministry are concerned about exotic imported diseases or hybrids lowering the quality of Thai rice.

Members of the THASTA such as Pioneer, Syngenta, Pacific Seed, Monsanto and Bayer have been active in the research and development of hybrid rice seeds and some are big suppliers for rice-producing countries such as India, Vietnam and China.

Hybrid varieties produced by private companies were marketed initially in Thailand last year by CP Crop Integration Business Co, which developed the seeds locally.

The price of hybrid rice seed is five or six times higher than conventional seeds, which cost about 20 baht a kilogramme. But it is thought farmers need use only 15 kg/rai for hybrid strains, compared with over 20 kg/rai for conventional seeds.

The yield from hybrid seeds is also high at more than a tonne per rai. At this volume, Thailand could cut its rice plantation requirement from 60 million rai to 40 million with the same output or higher, he said.

Thailand produces about 1 million tonnes of rice seed per year, of which 10% is supplied by the Rice Department, he said

Developing more hybrid varieties would increase the trade value of the country's seed industry, which was valued at 7 billion baht last year, covering vegetable and flower seeds and maize crops

(Source: Bangkok Post, Hybrid rice imports pushed, Cross-bred strains will lift sales, productivity, 9/03/2011, Walailak Keeratipipatpong, link)

hybrid - a mixture of two or or more different things, an animal or plant that is bred from two different types (species) พันธุ์ผสม หรือลูกผสม
strain -
a certain kind of animal, plant, bacteria, etc

cross-breeding - a technique in the science of genetics to improve plants and animals through selective breeding, "Plants are crossbred to introduce traits/genes from one variety or line into a new genetic background. For example, a mildew-resistant pea may be crossed with a high-yielding but susceptible pea, the goal of the cross being to introduce mildew resistance without losing the high-yield characteristics. Progeny from the cross would then be crossed with the high-yielding parent to ensure that the progeny were most like the high-yielding parent, (backcrossing). The progeny from that cross would then be tested for yield and mildew resistance and high-yielding resistant plants would be further developed. Plants may also be crossed with themselves to produce inbred varieties for breeding" (See Wikipedia on cross-breeding and plant breeding)
cross-bred strains - new plants coming from cross-breeding that combine the features of two plant lines or families

genetics -  
the biological science of how mothers and fathers pass on their genes and characteristics to their children, the science of DNA, chromosomes and genes in plants and animals that "shape identity and can be passed on to other cells. Genes determine certain characteristics, such as eye colour or the likelihood of having certain health problems" (See Wikipedia)

seedbed - an place where plants are grown from seeds (before being moved to some other place, when they get big)
urging - asking strongly that someone does something

relax rules - reducing rules, making rules less severe
regulations - rules made by thte government to control the way some activity is done ระเบียบ, ข้อบังคับ
relax regulations - reduce regulations, make less severe
ease - to make less severe บรรเทา to make or become less severe, difficult, unpleasant, painful, etc ทำให้ง่าย
ease regulations - make regulations less severe (less controlling, lighter punishment)

lift sales - increase sales
productivity - producing more with the same amount of inputs (labour, energy, etc) การผลิตสินค้า
import - to buy or bring in products from another country นำเข้า
seed - a very small hard object that is planted and from which a plant or tree grows (See Wikipedia)
commercial - for business purposes

approval - official permission to do some activity การอนุมัต
development - the gradual growth and formation of something
maize - corn, a tall plant grown in many parts of the world for its yellow seeds which are eaten as food, made into flour or fed to animals ข้าวโพด (See Wikipedia)

multinational (MNC) - multi-national corporation, a company that operates in many countries (See Wikipedia)
confident - being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future มั่นใจ
convince - saying things to make a person believe something
experimental trials - when scientific experiments are used to test whether something works or doesn't work (See Wikipedia)
quarantine -  a situation in which a person or animal that might have a disease is kept separate from other people or animals so that they do not catch the disease การกักไว้อย่างเข้มงวดเพื่อป้องกันการแพร่ของเชื้อโรค

encouraged - make a person be more confident, positive or hopeful  about something มีกำลังใจ
intensive - involving a lot of effort, energy, or attention
plantations - large farms with many workers growing commodity crops such as rubber, sugar, or coffee
efficient - produces a lot from few resources; doing a task with no waste of time, money or energy

conduct - to do something in an organised way; to carry out
measure - an action taken to solve a particular problem มาตรการ
native - from the country or a place in the country (not from a foreign country) พื้นบ้าน
initial - early; first ในเบื้องต้น; happening at the beginning of a process ในเบื้องต้น
talks - negotiations, formal discussions of problems between different sides in a conflict in order to solve the problem

enthusiastic - very interested in something or excited about it อย่า่งสนใจ กระตือรือร้น
concerned - worried about something มีความกังวล
exotic - unusual and strange and therefore interesting and exciting
enable - to make someone able to do something, or to make something possible ทำให้เป็นไปได้
climate - the general weather conditions usually found in a particular place สภาพอากาศ
climate change - a change in weather patterns that affects the whole world, "a regional change in temperature and weather patterns. Current science indicates a link between climate change over the last century and human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels" (See Wikipedia)
active - working, operating, doing its job
initially - at the beginning ในเบื้องต้น

conventional - ordinary, usual, normal ธรรมดา
yield - the amount produced per rai used in farming ให้ผลผลิตต่อไร่
volume - the quantity or amount of something
rice plantation requirement - the amount of rice that needs to be planted (every year)
trade - the buying and selling of goods การค้าขาย

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