Return of native strains

Return of native strains

The organic food movement is receiving a new boost, thanks to the efforts of the Organic Farming Research Centre at Shimoga. The Centre has been able to regenerate at least 83 traditional varieties of rice through a concerted effort during the last two years.

These varieties were on the verge of extinction with the powerful influx of other hybrid varieties during the last few decades. The Organic Farming Research Centre at Shimoga is reviving traditional rice varieties primarily in Shimoga and Uttara Kannada districts

No doubt, most of the hybrid varieties were high-yielding, but traditional varieties have other advantages such as better taste, adaptation to local climatic conditions, and  rich nutrients. Also, they require fewer quantities of fertilisers and lesser water. The traditional varieties are more resistant to pests and diseases and survive flooding.

The project was undertaken by the Centre under a University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) programme which had received a Rs two-crore grant in the state Budget presented by Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa. 

The green revolution brought in hybrid rice varieties which overwhelmingly occupied farms in the State as elsewhere. The government found them economical for the subsidies it had to offer. But the hybrid varieties were susceptible to pest and diseases.

Regenerating varieties
The Research Centre at Shimoga took up the task of regenerating traditional varieties primarily in Sagar, Tirthahalli in Shimoga district and Banavasi taluks of Uttara Kannada district. The Centre identified 74 varieties of traditional rice for planting during the last kharif season. Of these, 66 proved successful while eight failed to germinate.

Those that flowered included varieties such as Ratna churi,  Mysore mallige,  Aloor sanna, Rajbhog, Kanada tumba, Kichdi samba, Dehali samba, Kymie, HMT, Anandi, Chinna pani, Marabatta, Edikatti,  Zeeragi sada, Rajmuri,  Zeerage Sanna,  Holada tumba, Newara, etc.
The next summer crop that was sown in January this year has brought in greater success.
As many as 83 varieties have been successfully regenerated, this time round. Preparations are on towards experimenting with greater varieties this monsoon.
The scientist behind this experiment is agronomist N Deva Kumar who heads the Centre as its coordinator.

“Most farmers knew about these varieties from a long time, but there was never any systematic study made to preserve and promote them. Moreover, high output of hybrid varieties promoted by the official agencies lured them away from traditional strains. Now that this is being done, the varieties can be expected to be grown widely all over the state,” explains Deva Kumar.

He expects that by the next harvest, 90 regenerated varieties would be documented at the Centre.

Some of these varieties such as red rice were famous for their flavour and taste, and were traditionally used for sweet dishes made in homes in Karnataka, he pointed out. Kumar says these traditional varieties are location-specific.

For instance, some can be grown only in hilly areas while others can be grown in the plains.

Some varieties are rainfed while others can be grown only while being submerged in water.  He says these varieties are a boon for farmers as they feel they have better adaptability to organic farming.

Well-received by farmers
The reclaimed varieties have been welcomed by farmers. Farmers’ NGOs such as Sahaja Samruddha and Krishi Prayog Parivartan have collected the seeds from the Centre and distributed them among farmers.

The Centre distributes them free of cost. It drew the attention of farmers across the state at the Krishi Mela held in the UAS, Bangalore last November.

Farmers from Hoskote in Bangalore district have begun experimenting with these varieties after picking up specimens from the Krishi Mela.

In fact, farmers from several areas have begun demanding distribution of native strains, particularly in areas where flooding is commonplace and water-resilient varieties are required for sowing.

More information can be had from N Devakumar. Ph: 94800-37879, 

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