Pelancaran varieti betik Eksotika pada 1987 dan disusuli dengan Eksotika II pada 1997 telah merevolusikan industri betik Malaysia. Kedua-dua varieti yang dihasilkan oleh MARDI dengan mensasarkan pasaran eksport telah berjaya meningkatkan eksport betik Malaysia. Nilai eksport betik yang hanya sekadar RM3 juta pada 1986 sebelum pelancaran varieti Eksotika beransur-ansur meningkat dan mencapai kemuncaknya pada 2004 dengan nilai eksport sebanyak RM120 juta dengan menduduki tangga kedua sebagai pengeksport betik utama dunia selepas Mexico. Walau bagaimanapun, kejayaan ini tidak kekal lama apabila eksport betik merudum menjadi RM21 juta pada 2012 yang diakibatkan oleh jangkitan penyakit mati rosot betik. Penyakit ini diakibatkan oleh sejenis bakteria perosak iaitu Erwinia mallotivora (E. mallotivora) (nama lamanya ialah Erwinia papayae).
Varietal development has been a mandate to MARDI since the 1970s and until today a total of 45 varieties have been released for planting in the granary areas. The breeding objectives varied in accordance to the needs of the different era. In the 1970’s Malaysia started to implement double-cropping for rice after the Japanese occupation. For successful double-cropping, the varieties must have a maturation period of less than 145 days and be non-photoperiodic. Almost all of the traditional varieties planted at that time were photoperiodic and would not flower until December when the days are shortest.
The first successful non-photoperiodic variety was Mahsuri, developed from a cross between Japonica and Indica, and it was released in 1965. It was an easy shattering variety suited for manual harvesting. Despite its short to medium grain type, it was widely planted because of the excellent eating quality. However, the plants were too tall and prone to lodging. Further, it was susceptible to blast disease. These factors motivated breeders to produce varieties that were shorter and resistant to blast. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many crosses were made for the improvement of Mahsuri and Ria. Several successful varieties resulted from this programme, including improved Mahsuri, which farmers called by many names such as Apollo, Anak Dara and Mat Candu. Malinja, Mahsuri and Bahagia were accepted by farmers and were planted twice per year, but they were still prone to lodging since their heights were still too tall at 140-150 cm. Continue reading “Rice Varietal Development in MARDI For Food Sovereignty”→