Agriculture, forming a whopping 55 percent of Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product, is an important sector for the country’s economy. The agricultural productivity is imperative for the 165 million Bangladeshis, which is equivalent to 2.19 percent of the world’s population. The Bangladesh Government has been using modern technologies to improve food production. And Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) demonstrates the government’s intention as it uses nuclear technology for increasing productivity.
So far the Institute has succeeded in ushering in new varieties of rice using advanced nuclear technologies and Bangladesh is on the verge of becoming self-reliant in the field. Now the Institute has embarked on replicating the success in the field of fruits, flowers and spices.
Functioning since 1964, the BINA has succeeded in harnessing the nuclear technology quietly to develop high-yielding rice varieties that can withstand extreme environmental conditions like saline water conditions and months of being submerged in water. This is important as the low riparian country witness frequent floods.
Dr. Jahangir Alam the Director (Research & Training) of BINA enlist drought, salinity of farmland and barren lands as the most common problems for Bangladesh’s agriculture. The southern part of the country experiences excessive salinity and on the other hand northern part of the country lacks enough irrigation. “The nuclear technology has enabled us to cultivate in the extreme conditions of the climate and produce enough crops in shortest possible time to achieve the country’s food security,” he said.
BINA-11 and 12 are the rice breeds developed by BINA that can tolerate the conditions of ‘Haor’ (large wetland). The breeds can survive submerged in the water of Haors in rainy seasons for up to 25 days; after that time the plants have a capacity to grow again. Again, BINA-8 and 10 rice breeds are saline water tolerant. These types of rice breeds are proven to be the sole survivors in the extreme conditions of Bangladesh.
On the other hand, BINA-19 is a high-yielding rice breed that can produce up to 7 tons of rice per hectare where the conventional breeds can produce up to 5 tons only. Besides, BINA developed breeds have shorter growing time such that, BINA-14 takes only 110 days to get ready for harvesting where regular breeds take up to 150 days.
“Climate change has forced more frequent droughts and ill-timed floods in the country,” said Dr. Hosneara Begum, the Director of BINA (Research). “In a situation like this, we have no other options except for developing adaptive crop breeds to ensure food on the table for the countrymen,” she added. Nuclear technology is that unique solution towards achieving targeted food production in hostile conditions. Breeds developed with nuclear technology have both high-yielding and extreme condition tolerant property. Besides, these type of crops can be harvested in shorter time. She said that, BINA-7, 16 are among the most popular breeds from BINA which can be harvested in such shorter time so that the same land can be used for cultivating other crops at following times.
BINA with the support of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) has developed 19 different types of rice breeds through a process using radiation called Plant Mutation Breeding (PMB). BINA also developed at least 57 types of high-yielding and various disease resistant crop breeds of lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, mustard seed, sesame seed, soybean, jute, tomato and wheat using nuclear technologies.
For its outstanding contribution in agriculture, BINA was selected for the prize (cash of $100,000, a trophy and a certificate) of Science and Technology in the category of most noted research institution in Islamic Development Bank’s least developed member countries. The organisation is now working to develop better types of breeds of the crops by genetically modifying the seeds and using PMB techniques. The organisation is also working on developing better breeds of the popular local fruits and crops.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chaudhury said: “Better quality, high-yielding, and sustainable breeds will be developed using advanced technologies and nuclear techniques to attain more sustainable and productive agricultural system.”