Boregowda and his wife in their Siddasanna paddy field in Mandya district. PHOTO BY AUTHOR
Boregowda, a farmer in Shivalli village on Mandya-Melukote Road, is popular as 'Bhattada Boregowda' (Paddy Boregowda) for his paddy conservation efforts. Inspired by Natavara Sarangi's paddy diversity fields in Odisha, Boregowda initiated paddy conservation efforts in Mandya district in 2007. Thereby, inspiring hundreds of farmers to shift from high-yielding varieties to indigenous ones. Later, he came in contact with pioneering farmer plant breeders and learnt the basics of developing farmer bred varieties. In 2008, while walking through his Gandhasale (a paddy variety) field, he observed a distinct ear of paddy that reminded him of Sona Masuri, a high-yielding variety.
"Then Sona Masuri was the most sought-after variety for its fine grains, and there was no local variety that could compete with it," says Boregowda. He collected the grains from that ear, and cultivated them in a separate patch in the next season. For the next four years, he continued the experiment through seed selection and separate cultivation.
By 2012, a new variety was developed and cultivated in two acres. He named the variety as Siddasanna, in memory of his parents Siddegowda and Sannamma. That year, he kept aside the entire harvest for seed purpose and distributed it among those who were interested. Through Save our Rice campaign, the variety reached farmers across the State. Pioneering organic paddy growers from various regions of the State started cultivating this variety regularly. Together, all these growers now sell over 100 quintals of Siddasanna seeds per year.
The variety, which is easy to grow, resistant to pests and diseases, and suitable to cultivate in both the seasons, soon became popular among growers. The tasty, superfine grains attracted the consumers as well. As a result, the number of Siddasanna growers increased by the year and this year, in spite of extreme rainfall variability, over 500 farmers have grown Siddasanna paddy. The variety has spread to Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well.
The disease-resistant quality of the crop and quality rice are the two major reasons for the growing popularity of the variety among both growers and consumers. People believe that this farmer bred variety can be a good alternative to Sona Masuri. "Those who try Siddasanna soon become regular consumers. We have sold over 60 quintals of Siddasanna rice last year," says B Somesh of Sahaja Organics, Bengaluru.
Interestingly, agricultural scientists have played a key role in popularising this variety. While Dr N Devakumar of University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore documented the characteristics of this variety, Dr M P Rajanna, senior rice breeder at VC Farm, Mandya has provided necessary technical assistance for the production of quality seeds.
Siddasanna seed production is also done at the Organic Farming Research Centres in Navile, Shivamogga and Naganahalli, Mysuru. Organic farmers feel that it is time the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore acknowledges the variety and releases it through proper channel. One can contact Boregowda on 8904453841.