Rice (Oryza sativa L.) may be originated at least 130 million years ago and dispersed as a wild grass, the super continent that eventually broke up and drifted apart to become Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. Rice has always been one of the most important food crops in the world. It is estimated that 40% of the world’s population take rice as their major source of food; 1.6 billion people in Asia take rice as their mainstay food. Rice is produced in a wide range of locations and under a variety of climatic conditions, from the wettest areas in the world to the driest deserts which is produced in 111 countries in the world and grown on 144 million farms worldwide -more than for any other crop. The developing countries, especially the Asian countries - the regions with high population density and the most rapid population growth produce and consume the most rice. Rice production is an important source of livelihood for around 140 million rice-farming households and for millions of poor people working on rice farms as hired labour.
Global demand for food is rising because of population growth, enhanced income and changing food pattern. The population of world is expected to stabilize around more than 9 billion people by year 2050. The population growth will mainly restricted to rice-eating countries for which global food production needs to be increased by over 70% by 2050 to meet the overwhelming demand. Further, water scarcity and increasing competition for arable land put added pressure on agricultural production. In addition, climate change may affect the food production system and reduce reliance through altered weather patterns and increased pressure from pests and diseases particularly in rice. Therefore, the challenge of providing the farmers with tools and resources to enhance rice production with saving of natural resources in shrinking arable lands is an uphill task. Furthermore, this has to be achieved in a climate of increasing variability through climate resilient agricultural technology in which rice cultivation has to reduce its impact and participate to its mitigation. However, the problem can be solved through development of improved, environment-friendly and precise agricultural practices and high potential resilient varieties for different agro-ecosystems.
Recent breakthroughs in structural, functional and evolutionary rice genome biology have narrowed the gap between genetic variation and the phenotype performance and allowed the deciphering of the function of important genes underlying agronomically relevant traits pushing current scientific knowledge to address the need of sustainably increasing crop yields and global food security. Biotechnological tools have been deployed wherever necessary to enhance breeding efficiency and to save time. Transgenic rice and hybrid rice technology has been evolved as an essential tool for engineering new plant type, abiotic and biotic stress tolerance varieties. Modern scientific approaches and new technologies are making it possible to increase rice productivity in a sustainable manner, add nutritive value to rice, reduce losses from drought and flood, reduce the environmental footprint of rice production and make the rice production system “climate-smart.” Similarly, new opportunities are now available for enhancing rice value chains, reducing post-harvest losses, adding value through secondary processing and ensuring higher quality and safety of rice and rice products. Regional networks for the sharing of rice technology and market information are being established to raise productivity and stabilize the market supply through improved trading arrangements to achieve the national objective of doubling farmers’ income.