Indigenous Seeds Denied Recognition

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India underwent an agricultural transformation during the 1960’s. The Third Five Year Plan (1961-66) brought along with it “Green Revolution”, a new agrarian strategy which is often credited for revolutionizing the farming practices of the country.And, one of the most significant yet debatable features of this programmewas the introduction of High Yielding Variety of seeds (HYVs), a foreign invention, which apparently took the agricultural sector by storm. But, what is less known is that there are plenty of indigenous variety of seeds, particularly rice varieties which have a much higher yielding capacity.

Thelocally available seed varieties did not require the application of chemical fertilisers, insecticides or pesticides, and had the capacity to produce a good crop by using traditional methods of cultivation. But, the seed varieties promoted in the agricultural policies such as the green revolution were those which were dwarfing andnon-lodging and provided high yields only when they were fed with high doses of chemical fertilisers. Considering these aspects of HYVs, they should be termed as High Responsive Varieties (HRVs) instead of HYVs. However, for the sake of comparability with other publications, we would stick to the term “HYVs.”

High yielding variety of indigenous seeds

It was during the early stage of the implementation of the green revolution in Madhya Pradesh that Dr. R. H.Richharia, who was the then Director of the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute (MPRRI) in Raipur, came up with several indigenous rice varieties which gave high yields without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Dr. Richharia undertook and guided several research programs dedicated towards improving rice cultivation in Madhya Pradesh and India as a whole, by using indigenous rice varieties. And, the argument put forward by him was that these are best adapted to diverse local agro-climatic conditions.

Acknowledging Dr. Richharia’s contributions in the agricultural sector, particularly rice cultivation, the Prime Minister’s office, led by the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, asked him to prepare a plan for improving rice cultivation. In this plan he advocated for indigenous varieties, highlighting their better yield potential as well as other better qualities of indigenous varieties. He prepared a table (as produced below), wherein he provided information on high yields of improved traditional varieties, in terms of paddy yield, unlike these days when the data is provided in terms of rice yield only. He also specifically mentioned in his official notes that the yields of various improved indigenous varieties recommended by his Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute were much higher than the exotic green revolution varieties which were being propagated widely.

Potential of some high yielding varieties of Indian rice with special reference to Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh

Serial No.

OriginalRice Variety

Improvedversion no.

Paddykg/Ha.

RiceGrade

Maturity

1.

Lalloo

Bd.12

7024

Medium Fine

Early

2.

Dhour

Bd. 23

6136

Medium Fine

Early

3.

Koyalari

Bd. 811

7350

Coarse

Early

4.

Nungi

Bd. 813

7623

Coarse

Early

5.

Cross 116

Bd. 30

4000

Coarse

Medium

6.

Kalam

Bd. 368

5510

Medium fine

Medium

7.

Beni Kath

Bd. 452

4080

Short fine

Medium

8.

TedhiBanko

Bd. 207

6290

Long fine

Late

9.

Kala Mali

Bd. 108

7600

Coarse

Late

10.

Safri

Bd. 200

5520

Medium

Late

11.

Dubraj

Bd. 153

4958

Medium fine

Late

12.

TedhiBanko

Bd. 207

6250

Long fine

Late

Photo : FoodNavigator-Asia

Efforts in vain

Unfortunately, despite giving several examples and explanations on the benefits of traditional high-yielding varieties, they did not receive any official recognition, whatsoever.

While stressing on the fact that many rice cultivators use their own indigenous variety of rice, and how they possessed deep knowledge about them, the MPRRI Director said,

“In fact in every rice growing locality, the growers themselves tell us which of their own varieties are high yielding to which they stick. But, under the extension services, the definition of high yielding rice variety is different which necessarily involves a dwarfing gene and, therefore, growers own high yielding varieties are not recognised which are estimated to be 8 or 9 percent in M.P. In a survey, carried out in Madhya Pradesh between 1971-74, 8 percent of the indigenous rice types were observed to fall under the category of high yielding types, fixing the minimum limit of 3705 kg./Ha.”

To further emphasize the benefits of indigenous varieties over the exotic green revolution variety, it is important to quote Dr. Richharia from a 1977 publication written by him, “A strategy for rice production to ensure sustained growth in Madhya Pradesh.”

“During 1975, nucleus seeds of 967 improved cultures under BD. (Baronda) series were sent out to different locations (Govt. seed multiplication farms and farmers’ holdings) in 17 different districts, mostly tested under normal fertility with no plant protection measures applied. The result, obtained from eleven districts, revealed that the average of 121 entries works out to be 3984 kg/Ha of paddy grain or 2669 kg/ha. of rice. In terms of the definition of a high yielding variety in respect of yield 3705 kg/Ha, as accepted by the M.P. Agriculture Deptt., the improved material recommended here can be accepted as high yielding.”

He further goes on to write:

“There are many good cultures tested at SeoniMalwa during 1978 which can be quoted to establish that very productive germ-plasm exists in different parts of Madhya Pradesh which can be utilized in increasing rice yields.These varieties have been bred under no plant protection umbrella. This production potential must be tapped and antagonism against indigenous types has to disappear.”

Dr. Richharia’s write up goes on to prove that the selected material in the form of Bd: series possesses superior yield potential which can form the basis to increase rice production in immediate future with added advantage that they are palatable and they show resistance to pest and to periodical drought to some extent.

His publication also describes the already identified indigenous high yielding varieties, early-maturing varieties, drought – resistant varieties, scented varieties, special flavor varieties, among others.

To quote him further:

“The surveys carried out so far have disclosed the existence of over 237 scented varieties, maintained by the growers in the state. Such scented varieties are Chinnor of Balaghat (village Kaidi), Dubraj of SehawaNagri and Kali Muchh of Dabra (Gwalior) are well known. Very long grain varieties such as DokraDekri, Raja Bangla etc. were found especially useful for preparing murra. DokraDekri is the world’s longest recorded rice. Chilko variety of rice was found to be used by advasis (tribals) for making good chapatis. Khowa variety of rice had the taste of dried milk.”

In yet another research paper prepared by Dr. R.H. Richhariafor Adaptive Rice Research Center, titled “Adaptive Rice Research Note No. 5 – our strategy on the rice production front’, he observes:

“In an experiment carried out at the center (Baronda, Raipur) evidence was available to conclude that under identical conditions, the two indigenous varieties. Surmatia and Baikoni at 40 kgN/Ha with cultural manipulations (Phaltai system) out performed or remained at par with HYVs Ratna and Sona (fertilized at 100 kg/N/Ha) under Biyasi system with no plant protection adopted. This indicates a value of far reaching significance and has a relevance to the existing situation when Biyasi is practised in 92 per cent of the area in Chattisgarh, and fertilizers and plant protection chemicals are in short supply. This indicates that:

(i) The dwarfs are not suited to the Biyasi system
(ii) They stand to lose considerably in the absence of plant protection measures

(iii) With lower does of fertilizers and without plant protection measures the adapted indigenous varieties yield better or remain at par with the dwarfs, grown with high doses of fertilizers and without plant protection measures.

(iv) For the dwarfs the two inputs are most essential viz the fertilizers and the plant protection chemicals. In the absence of any one, they suffer heavily and therefore the selected tall varieties are to be preferred.”

To quote Dr. Richharia again, “A special advantage associated with indigenous high yielding rice germplasm identified for different tracts and situations, is that it possesses a good level of resistance to environmental stress and common diseases and pests, coupled with local preference for palatability.”

While healthy indigenous varieties were denied recognition as HYVs, excessively disease and pest prone varieties were readily recognisedand accepted as HYVs and promoted very rapidly.
So, was there a heavy bias against traditional seeds in agricultural research? May be that the efforts of the government as well as corporates need to be looked into?

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