Kasalath, a lost (and now found) rice of Bangladesh

Kasalath, a lost  (and now found) rice of Bangladesh

Abed Chaudhury and Tanvir Hossain

“This group [of varieties] is a real treasure chest – there are lots of stress genes preserved in it,” Dr Sigrid Heuer of IRRI.

During the last six weeks, a rice, Kasalath has attracted first the attention of the world, and then of Bangladesh. Much has been written about this rice in international press and then in Bangladesh. Initially described as “wild rice from India” by international press including BBC the rice, Kasalath has now been recognised as rice belonging to Bangladesh as well as India, by IRRI. News of this acceptance has received wide-spread publicity in greater Sylhet as well as all over Bangladesh.

Normally the news of a rice does not attract so much attention. But Kasalath is a very special rice. For the last eight years or so numerous scientific papers have been published in very prestigious scientific journals such as proceedings of the national academy of science of USA and the prestigious science weekly Nature. The rice genome is endowed with numerous genes beneficial for agriculture, such as ability to regenerate, resistance e to pathgogens, property of taste that improved the Japanese sushi rice, and finally an ability to grow in soil with lesser amount of phosphate fertiliser. The last property was the subject of a long feature publication in Nature magazine where Kasalath was described as an Indian rice.

Upon receiving this news we worked hard over a period of two weeks to demystify Kasalath, for the international community. One of us (AC) knew of this rice as a rice from Sylhet area, but there was no published document to prove it. Indeed a search in the powerful search engine google showed no entry of Kasalath and Bangladesh together. Thus by simply using the memory of a heritage rice a campaign was launched to inform and convince the international community, and in particular IRRI scientists. Together we combined local knowledge as well as knowledge of international database (TH) to probe more into the history of Kasalath. Colleagues of IRRI also helped us in this.

After two weeks of work the following story emerged regarding Kasalath rice.

In 1925, from greater Sylhet town of karimganj five different varieties of rice was sent to USA. In 1925 Sylhet was part of Assam and thus the rice was noted as of Indian and Assamese origin. One of that five varieties was Kasalath. Once IRRI was established Kasalath was donated to IRRI from USA as a rice of Indian origin. Since then however there is no record of Kasalath being of Indian origin. However Kasalath is a common land-race in areas of what is now Bangladesh including Kamalganj, Kulaura, Rajnagar, Golapganj, etc. The line was collected by BRRI in 1981 from Kamalganj. It is simply a Sylhetii variety going way back to early 1900’s or even earlier. Our research since then has found that people of these areas are very familiar of this variety.

Armed with such knowledge we have approached IRRI and they have now agreed to issue a statement which was published in their website regarding the origin of Kasalath rice. By searching in google for “Kasalath and Bangladesh” one can now read all the relevant information.

Kasalath is part of a larger group of rice called Aoosh, which is now attracting world-wide attention. Genes able to protect rice from stress seems to be harboured in Aoosh rice, and this Bangladeshi group of rice is now attracting the attention of the world. In coming months and years this area of research will receive further prominence internationally showing that Bangladesh has much to give to the world.. Maybe we will not be able to join in all these work but it is imperative for all Bangladeshis, whether living in Bangladesh or overseas to be aware of these developments and to make sure that we can join in this important research endeavours to the extent possible.


Abed Chaudhury is a Plant geneticist and Molecular Biologist living in Canberra;
Tanvir Hossain, is a former Scientist of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.

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