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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MP man preserves local varieties of rice

I had earlier  posted about Indian Green revolution, rice and on IR8 –  Ponni Rice is a variety of rice developed by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in 1986. It is widely cultivated in Tamil Nadu.  The name  literally means 'like gold'. Since River Cauvery is also called 'Ponni' in Tamil literature there is a notion that the rice could have been named after the river.  Decades earlier in 1961 when  India was on the brink of mass famine, a new semi-dwarf variety was introduced and much credit for that goes to the then Agriculture Minister Sri C Subramaniam.  It was stated that this variety would yield more per hectare and was dubbed as miracle rice.  

சுழன்றும் ஏர்ப்பின்னது உலகம் அதனால்;
உழந்தும் உழவே தலை **

Agriculture has been mankind’s primary activity for centuries. Thiruvalluvar hails ‘Uzhavu – Agriculture’ by saying that  though laborious, it is the most excellent form of labour; though people would go around in search of various employments ~ all will have to resort to the farmer at last !   Rice is grown in more than a hundred countries.  About 90% of the rice in the world is grown in Asia (nearly 640 million tons). Sub-Saharan Africa produces about 19 million tons and Latin America some 25 million tons.  There are some special varieties like the famous ‘Basmati rice’, a type of aromatic rice, grown mostly in India and Pakistan. It is renowned for its long, slender shape that elongates rather than expands in width when it is cooked. The word basmati means "queen of fragrance," and the rice is distinguished by its aroma and taste.   

Globally, rice stockpiles are expanding to the highest level ~   Rice is not exclusive to India [we South Indians think it so !!!] Rice is economically and culturally important to Thailand.  The country lays claim to being the producer of the coveted, high-quality rice and was for long the  world's top exporter. Rice occupies 55% of Thailand's arable land, and it is the staple food of the population across income brackets. Ceremonies invoking rain and bountiful harvest  are commonly performed by Thai rice farmers before planting seasons.

In Tamil Nadu, some of the traditional varieties  are : Mappillai samba, Seeraga samba, Kundrimani samba, Poovan samba, kudavazhai, and ……

~ now read this interesting piece of information reproduced from Hindustan Times : A 72-year-old farmer and Bagheli poet in Madhya Pradesh has been cultivating over 110 varieties of rice that date back a thousand years to preserve and protect them.

HT reports that Babulal Dahiya, from Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district, has taken it upon himself to preserve the local varieties of crop, which frequently feature in folklore in his two-acre land. He began cultivating in 2005 after realising that folk songs on agriculture alone would not keep the crops from going extinct.

Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh together have 23,000 varieties of rice, of which only 110 were recorded to exist by the 2000s. Speaking to Hindustan Times, the Dahiya said: “ Words and seeds have a long history; when they are lost, all knowledge they coded is also lost. There are rice varieties that need less water, varieties that are disease resistance, varieties that are comparatively drought resistant. But for larger yield and more profit, we started sowing hybrid and dwarf rice varieties, which need more pesticides and fertilisers.”

For Babulal, the turning point was when through a folksong, he learnt of a variety of rice which has spikes and therefore, is not eaten by wild bears. His collection has been getting deposited in a seed bank developed with the help of the MP State Biodiversity Board. Inspired by Babulal’s work, the Biodiversity Board has started a Beej yatra to collect indigenous varieties of vegetables and medicinal plants. So far, they have collected over 1600 varieties from 24 districts, R Sreenivasa Murthy, Member Secretary of the Board told Hindustan Times.

May his tribe increase

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th Jun 2017

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