19 varieties of rice in 10 acres, NGO shows the way

By Times Of India on 16 Apr 2018 | read
NAGPUR: Reviving the debate once again over local indigenous variety versus the ones promoted by agriculture universities, an NGO Gramin Yuva Pragatik Mandal (GYPM) took up the challenge to prove that local indigenous seeds were more effective and scripted a success story. In the process, the NGO not just proved its claim right but also produced 19 traditional varieties of rice on a 10-acre plot within a year, each with varying number of days required for harvest.

Last year in April, a plot of 10 acres was allotted by Bhandara collector Abhijeet Chaudhari to a member of district agriculture department and founder of GYPM, Avil Borkar, as an experiment. The land was granted to be used only for local indigenous seeds. “I had contested the presumption about seeds promoted by agri varsities. I wanted to prove that local indigenous seeds were better than the seeds promoted even by agriculture universities,” said Borkar. A few department officials were then deployed to monitor Borkar and two other members’ work.

Borkar says that Black Rice took 160 days to grow, and has given the highest yield. “Black Rice is rich in iron. While other varieties of rice are sold for Rs35-Rs40 per kg in the market, farmers earned Rs80 per kg for this variety. Twenty-two quintals of Kalikamo variety were gained despite the crop getting little or no water. Hiranakki, a form of scented rice, is helping farmers earn at least Rs100 per kg. Ten quintals of Eklomi variety was produced despite untimely rains,” he said. Borkar and his team initially planted 26 varieties, but some were damaged due to unfavourable climatic conditions.

There was a situation, remembers Borkar, when crops in the nearby fields were infested by pests. “People were taken aback when they saw our crops in good condition. The official monitoring our plot reasoned that our crops were free from chemical fertilizers and herbicides,” he says, adding the varieties could withstand bad weather because they belonged to the local area. Borkar and team focused on management and revival of local resources in select villages and diverse agro-climatic zones of Maharashtra.

In a larger context, Borkar and his NGO works in six talukas in three districts for in-situ and ex-situ conservation, covering 48 villages and 700 farmers. Eight villages each in Sakoli and Bhandara block have been chosen to focus on rice, lakhori and jawas crop. As part of Maharashtra Gene Bank Programme, the NGO has helped create a community seed bank by searching for local seeds. The variety of crop is then registered, after which the seeds are regenerated, distributed and multiplied. This initiative is supported by Maharashtra Gene Bank Programme (MGBP) and Rajiv Gandhi Science and Technology Commission, Maharashtra, as well.