<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Today Indians are forcibly standing in queues as cash is rationed; 60 years ago Indians were also standing in queues as food was rationed.Staple food like rice and wheat was in short supply; people had to stand in serpentine queues to buy a few kilograms of food grains. Life indeed was tough.In fact most of Asia was on the brink of starvation in the 1950s, then came a miracle plant developed by scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines that experts say “changed the world”.This small rice plant called IR-8 doubled the yields and it led to a farming revolution that saved millions of lives.After the World War II and the horrible great Bengal famine that killed nearly 2-3 million people, a miracle was required to save the lives of starving Indians. Then came this blade of new grass that helped slowly propel India into a new era of food self-sufficiency.Rice in the 1950s was a tall plant that gave few grains and was very prone to lodging or falling over and hence a lot of grain used to get spoilt. The need was to have a short robust plant that had many tillers or grain bearing stems.Scientists at IRRI married two strains of rice one from Indonesia and one from Taiwan and thus was born a plant that saved the world called ‘IR-8’.Gurdev Khush, a plant geneticist and till recently the chief rice breeder at IRRI, who played a huge role in making IR-8 the ‘miracle plant’ says usual plant breeding offered incremental small one to two per cent increases in yield but IR-8 offered an astronomical doubling of the yield.According to IRRI, “The IR8 was the first offspring of these intense breeding efforts. It was a semi-dwarf rice and was the result of a cross between Peta, a tall vigorous variety, and Dee-geo-woo-gen, a dwarf variety.”M S Swaminathan, dubbed as the father of the Indian green revolution and former director general of IRRI, says, “IR made global history as the yield ceiling was broken,” adding it is the Indian farmers who were the real saviour as they were always willing to learn and adapt to new technologies.This ‘miracle rice’ were widely distributed free of cost. The plant was immediately lapped up by the farmers in East Asia.PTI

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A miracle rice that saved India