The rainfed lowland is a predominant rice ecology in Bihar (2.7 million ha). As it is monsoonbased, sowing and transplanting of rice are invariably delayed. The crop also faces flood and drought, singly or in combination, at any growth stage. Because of these constraints, the high-yielding varieties developed for this ecology through on-station efforts are not widely adopted. Traditionally, to develop varieties adapted to this ecology, photoperiod-sensitive cultivars are grown. A participatory approach began in 1995 at RAU. The program was further strengthened when an IRRI-sponsored participatory breeding project was launched in 1998. From the beginning, farmers were partners in varietal selection.
An on-farm research trial consisting of 12 improved varieties and advanced breeding lines (including local checks) that differed in height and growth duration was conducted at three representative sites in farmers’ fields. Of these materials, four entries were selected, mainly on the basis of high yields, and were included in large-scale multilocation on-farm trials. A survey conducted under the Farmers’ Participatory Breeding (FPB) Project found that RAU 1306-4-3-2-2, a line included in the 1995 on-farm trial, was already being grown in several villages. Farmers liked its excellent grain and cooking quality and tolerance for submergence and drought. It is about 15 d earlier than some popular local cultivars such as Bakol. This entry was thus included in the ongoing multi-location on-farm trials to assess its performance in farmers’ fields. All the entries were evaluated at the vegetative and reproductive stages and a relative ranking, by both scientists and farmers, was made. RAU 1306-4-3-2-2 was rated the best by farmers.