Minutes of Dr Mohan Rao, Director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India on Improved Samba Mahsuri


Here with, Dr Mohan Rao, Director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India to speak upon improved Improved Samba Mahsuri : Bacterial Blight Resistant derivative of the elite High Yielding, fine grain-type, rice variety, Samba Mahsuri. He was a Visiting Associate at the National Institutes of Health,USA during 1990 – 1992. He was a Visiting Professor at the Tokyo Science University, Japan 1996. He is positioned as Director for the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India.

Starting with the interview, we would like you to please let our audience know about your profile in detail, your contribution in development of super breed called Sambha Masuri.

Presently as the Director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, I focus my research combining biophysical, molecular biological and cell biological approaches to address problems of biomedical importance. Protein folding, heat shock proteins, lens transparency, cataract and keratitis; Biosensors, DNA-based diagnostics, Nanobiology, Photoacoustic spectroscopy are some of my areas of research.

I had my PhD from the University of Hyderabad in Chemistry. Later joined CCMB and initiated intact lens spectroscopic investigation. Visited USA, Japan and China as Visiting Scientist. Other activities include popularizing science among the school children and uninitiated public in particular and as Honorary President of Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV), a “science for the people” movement in general.

Honors and Awards: President of the Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences; Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences, Trieste, Italy; Fellow of Indian National Science Academy, Fellow of National Academy of Sciences, India; Fellow of Indian Academy of Science and Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences. Received several awards including Shanthi Swarup Bhatnagar Prize (1999) and the Ranbaxy Award for Basic Medical Sciences (2000).  Elected as “J C Bose National Fellow” and Member of editorial boards of scientific journals and Section Editor for BBA-Proteins and Proteomics.

I was in regular touch with team members and with continuous interaction with DRR people I encouraged and supported them to the next level to reach out the results (seeds) to the farmers having an impact to the society.

Which rice variety will be identified as Sambha Masuri and how did it come through? How the project has brought transformation in the Sambha Masuri?

Samba Mahsuri (also called BPT5204) is one of India’s most popular and highly prized rice varieties and is cultivated in 1-2 million hectares in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Chhatisgarh. Samba Mahsuri is susceptible to the serious Bacterial Blight (BB) disease causing 15-50% yield losses and there are no effective bactericides for controlling it. One of our Plant molecular biologist, Dr Ramesh Sonti came forward to propose a biotechnological intervention to this problem in collaboration with Directorate of Rice Reserch (DRR), Hyderabad. After we successfully took up the project, now farmers from other states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are showing lot of interest in this variety.

What motivated you and your team to work on this project?

CCMB is a premier institute doing biological research in the frontier areas of research. One such area is Plant Molecular Biology. CCMB scientists have been working on the plant-pathogen interactions since 1993 and they took up Arabidopsis as a model plant initially. By seeing the loss of yields of Samba Mahsuri is susceptible to the serious Bacterial Blight (BB) disease which can cause between 15-50% yield losses. Effective bactericides are not available for controlling BB. In a collaborative project, CSIR-CCMB and DRR scientists have used Marker Assisted selection (MAS) to develop Improved Samba Mahsuri, a BB resistant derivative of Samba Mahsuri that retains the quality and yield characteristics of the parent. Improved Samba Mahsuri is not a transgenic plant. It has been released for commercial cultivation after testing in national multi-location trials. Our objective is to popularize cultivation of Improved Samba Mahsuri rice variety.

How was the team organized and selected, and what was your exact role on the team?

CCMB played a major role for the molecular analysis while DRR take the role of plant breeding and when the superbreed of Samba Mahsuri was developed I have convinced CSIR to take up this under CSIR 800 vision project under which we reached the farmers widely in farmers meetings conducted at various places in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State

How the project is beneficial for the rice farmers and do you think that it will increase the yield of Sambha Masuri?

Certainly. The project is very beneficial for the rice farmers. They do not have to worry that bacterial blight would not come and affect their plants and happy that there would not be any loss of yield in the crop. There is a tremendous benefit in the form of revenue due to more yield of the crop and by not going back to buy up the seeds every year.

Sambha Masuri is identified as diabetic-friendly rice variety. What would you like to say upon this.

This is not yet proved scientifically and no comments on this subject.

What kind of diseases mainly affects the Sambha masuri rice production?

Diseases that affect the rice production are blast, bacterial leaf blight and rice tungro virus (RTV).

Is there any further improvement pending on making project more flexible and reliable?

The project is started with to attain with Bacterial Blight resistance without affecting the parental characteristics. We are planning further to develop varieties for resistance to other disease of rice.

For the same project you won an award called”Innovation for the rural development” by CSIR, what was your contribution for the rural development? 

To reach all the farmers in need, CCMB and DRR have started a program to provide 10 kg seeds of Improved Samba Mahsuri, free of cost, to each of many rice farming households. Our objective is to popularize cultivation of Improved Samba Mahsuri rice variety. With this object in mind, we propose to supply seed samples of Improved Samba Mahsuri, free of charge, to about 500 rice farmers in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, during 2013-14.  The project is being funded under the CSIR-800 program, a flagship project of CSIR. CSIR-800 is aimed at enhancing livelihood options and economic and social well being of 800 million Indians who either live in rural areas or constitute the urban poor. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) of Nalgonda, East Godavari, West Godavari, Guntur and Kurnool districts. We have already organized 3 farmers meets in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to popularize the variety amongst rice farmers.  Our aim is to reach 1000 farmers during 2014-2015 and to hold 4 more famers meetings during this period.

These efforts were recently recognised by CSIR and selected CCMB and DRR for CSIR Award for S&T Innovations for Rural Development – 2013 for development and deployment of an improved Samba Mahsuri rice variety which is bacterial blight resistant, high yielding and possesses fine-grains.

What were the challenges your team faced while working upon the project?

While we doing the background and foreground selections of the progeny, speed and precise are most important to select the right plants for backcross. This we have achieved efficiently in highly professional approach of our team members.

What farmers can expect from the project in coming years?

The effort through this award, in a way, is also to give a boost to rural development through intrinsic innovation and its implementation at ground level. It’s a continuous process to fight with the pathogens and we scientists continue our efforts to combat the diseases and give the best quality of seeds to farmers in future.

We Thanks Dr Mohan Rao for devoting his precious time for our portal and wish success for his upcoming projects.

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