Rare display of paddy diversity

Rare display of paddy diversity

Many varieties of traditional paddy, millets, attractive panicles of different crops, detailed information on all plants including their cultivation methods are the highlights of the Rice Museum set up by the Organic Farming Research Centre (OFRC) situated in Navile near Shivamogga.

While the diversity exhibited here is beautiful, decoration of the museum using folk art designs has enhanced its beauty. Contrary to the general belief that agricultural institutes are encouraging farmers to opt for improved and hybrid varieties, OFRC is supporting them to grow traditional varieties. The museum has been set up as part of this effort.

Sustainable agriculture researchers say that India had more than five lakh traditional paddy varieties a few hundred years ago. Now only a few thousand varieties remain. While the ones that are available  are also fast disappearing, some farmers’ organisations and civil society organisations are working towards saving them. Farmers have also joined in the movement to conserve heritage paddy varieties and as a result, traditional varieties are back in the paddy fields.

Obtaining good quality seeds and adopting suitable cultivation practices are still a challenge for those who are willing to grow traditional crops. At this juncture, OFRC is supporting enthusiastic farmers by providing necessary information and inputs.

“This museum is nothing but a knowledge centre,” says S Pradeep, coordinator and nodal officer of OFRC. Over 200 traditional paddy varieties and all types of millets are on display at the museum. “Farmers who want the cultivation details come here for seeds and cultivation guidance. Both seeds and information are provided free of cost,” adds Pradeep.

Most of the varieties exhibited here are sourced from different parts of the State. Many varieties from neighbouring states are also on display. “For instance, take navara paddy variety. This is a traditional variety from Kerala and is used for treatment of arthritis. Interestingly, it grows very well in the Malnad region. We have conserved it and have done a detailed study of its characteristics. Aromatic varieties like gandhasale, ghamgadale and many other paddy varieties were commonly grown a few decades ago. We collect seeds of these varieties in little quantities from farmers, scale up by growing them in different patches and distribute among interested farmers,” Pradeep explains.

Rice diversity block

In the last kharif season, a rice diversity block was set up at the centre and about 200 traditional varieties were grown in different patches. In association with Sahaja Samrudha organic farmers’ association and ‘Save Our Rice’ campaign, the centre made an assessment of the characteristics of the varieties. This summer, farmer-developed varieties such as NMS-2, Chinniponi, Mysore mallige, HMT and Siddasanna will be sown and tested here.

OFRC is encouraging farmers to follow organic farming practices through awareness programmes and training sessions. Last year, the centre distributed 2,000 kg of seeds along with biofertiliser free of cost.

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