AGPPS 103—The pride of Vietnam’s rice sector

Wednesday, 2017-02-01 08:48:28
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NDO—For the first time ever, a Vietnamese rice variety has been recognised as one of the three most delicious rice varieties in the world by The Rice Trader. Its name is hat ngoc troi (“pearl of heaven”), developed from AGPPS 103 by Loc Troi Corporation, formerly An Giang Plant Protection JSC.

The requirements of the rice contest were very high. Those who submitted the rice must have ownership of and bear all responsibility for that variety. The jury were rice researchers, traders and producers from rice associations of leading rice-producing countries and the chef of a five-star hotel. The panel did not know the names of the rice varieties and assessed their quality based on the taste, smell and texture of the cooked grains.

The creator of AGPPS 103 is Mai Tan Hoang, an engineer born in the 1980s and deputy director of the Dinh Thanh Agricultural Research Centre. Recalling the process whereby he developed AGPPS 103, Hoang said he was inspired by former Deputy Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development Bui Ba Bong, who suggested that Vietnamese engineers should create several varieties of rice that can compete with Thai rice and are suited to different soil conditions.

For more than five years, Hoang and his colleagues worked hard in the lab and the field to select and breed rice varieties. In the 2009 winter-spring season, the white long-grain, pineapple-scented, firm and high-stalk variety, which can withstand bacterial blight, was formally born. But in addition to fragrance, a tastier variety also needs a high content of nutrition. The rice plant must be able to grow in many types of soil to adapt to climate change and saltwater intrusion and must be a short-day variety so that farmers can grow two to three crops a year.

Hoang has left his footprints from Dong Thap Muoi, characterised by acidic sulphate soil, to the Long Xuyen Quadrangle and the saline regions of U Minh, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu, to study soil conditions and modify the rice genes so that the plant can adapt to different soil types.

In 2010 AGPPS 103 was formally introduced. The variety has firm stalks, can resist diseases and withstand a high level of salinity and has the fragrance of pineapple and a high content of nutrition. The production cost is also cheaper than other foreign varieties and the crop duration is quite short between 90 and 100 days.

After two years of research and testing, the AGPPS 103 variety has been planted in more than 11,000 hectares in the Mekong River Delta, with an output of 8-10 tonnes per hectare. According to Professor Duong Van Chin, former director of the Mekong River Delta Rice Institute, another advantage of AGPPS 103 is that when grown in soil contaminated with saltwater, the rice grain is smoother and tastier than the one grown in freshwater.

Following the success of AGPPS 103, Mai Tan Hoang and his young colleagues at the Dinh Thanh Agricultural Research Centre have created many other fragrant rice varieties, of which AGPPS 140 and AGPPS 137 are the inheritance of AGPPS 103 with superior characteristics. It is believed that there will more “Grains of Heaven” in the future to help Vietnamese farmers prosper.