JORHAT, Nov 11 � To give a fillip to research and development in the agricultural sector of the State, the country�s premier atomic research institution, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has approved of 20 research projects for funding and monitoring, which were submitted by several scientists and researchers of the Assam Agricultural University (AAU) here six months back.
�It is encouraging for all of us. The BARC will provide the funds and monitor the projects besides engaging scientists for collaboration. As many as 20 projects have been approved by it,� said Dr KM Bujarbaruah, Vice Chancellor of the AAU.
Some of the major projects have been prepared to improve various local varieties of Joha and Ranjit paddy to augment production in flood-affected areas, while many others aim at developing dehydrated and irradiated fruits like jackfruit, and reducing post-harvest diseases and loss of fruits like banana.
Though high-yielding varieties of paddy like Ranjit are a preferable choice for about 50 per cent of the State farmers, several waterlogged areas witness loss of production as the paddy cannot withstand excessive water for more than four days. �Now our research project aims to make the paddy variety water-resistant for 12 days. Through molecular marker-aided selection and mutation, we will be able to reduce the crop duration without reducing the yield,� said Dr Sanjay Kumar Chetia, senior scientist of Plant Breeding and Genetics, AAU.
With the BARC�s assistance, AAU scientists have decided to assess the arsenic content on agricultural land, which is irrigated for paddy cultivation every year, at various places. According to some agricultural scientists, if arsenic accumulates in the rice grains to non-permissible limits, the consumption of such grains may cause fatal diseases like cancer. In a recent investigation conducted by a senior scientist (Soil) of the AAU, Dr BK Medhi, arsenic has been found in 60 per cent of the samples of groundwater in the Titabor area of Jorhat district.
�According to the guidelines of the National Drinking Water Mission, the permissible limit of arsenic in water is 50ppb (parts per billion). But the 60 per cent of the samples collected from Titabor showed non-permissible limits in the groundwater. It may be mentioned here that Dubai has already banned the popular Keteki Joha variety due to the high arsenic content,� said Dr Medhi.
To reduce arsenic accumulation in rice grains, the senior scientist and his team will conduct an investigation under the BARC-approved project for the effective use of bio-char, specifically on the paddy fields in the State which are irrigated by groundwater during cultivation.
Besides, the team is formulating a plan to screen some varieties of paddy to find out the high accumulation of arsenic during the research.