Busting blast through breeding: meet Mukund Variar

By: Lorna Calumpang
3 September 2014

Mukund Variar
Blast caused by a fungus infects rice and causes more severe damage to upland rice compared with irrigated rice. When blast infects rice, future gains disappear like smoke in the air. Farmers worry about ways to recoup their lost investment.

Blast-busting is Mukund’s cup of tea. He has spent most of his research career developing, testing, and validating the performance of blast-resistant upland rice lines/varieties. Plant pathologist, breeder, organizer–these three features best describe our CURE site coordinator from eastern India, Mukund Variar. Mukund has had the privilege of working with experts on developing and breeding blast-resistant rice. He is part of the team that made possible the release of seven rice varieties in India from 2002 to 2010.

The latest rice blast-resistant variety, Sahbhagi dhan, was released for Jharkhand and Orissa in eastern India. The impact analyses of these improved rice technologies showed that the farmers were able to meet their rice needs for an additional 3 months, the result of increased cropping intensity from 116 to 150%.

As the CURE key site coordinator, Mukund’s typical day includes organizing on-farm trials in several villages in Indian plateau uplands. These trials showcase crop establishment and best-bet management options for stress-tolerant rice, providing the learning ground for farmers to experience the use of technologies on stress tolerance, including seed purity maintenance and varietal choices.

He has authored more than 35 papers in refereed journals, four book chapters, and 25 presentations in symposia and workshops. 

Mukund Variar is principal scientist and officer-in-charge of the Central Rainfed Upland Rice Research Station in Hazaribag.