A movement to promote and protect ‘Ponni' rice (also called white ponni) a fine variety of rice widely cultivated in Tamil Nadu is to be launched by an association of farmers called ‘Traditional Seeds Centre' based at Kalasapakkam, near here.
“The fragrant, fine and tasteful Ponni rice loved by Tamil people and equally loved by Tamil farmers to cultivate, of course, was long denied the status of fragrant rice. But now the Ponni is slowly losing its ground as staple food of affluent families of the State as well. Varieties largely produced by farmers of neighbouring states like Sona Masoori started occupying the local market in the guise of ‘Andhra Ponni,' ‘Karnataka Ponni.' Shrewd traders deceive consumers who insist on Ponni, by coining new names,” P.T. Rajendran, coordinator of the movement said.
The movement would be launched with a seminar on the rice variety to be held at Kalasapakkam on Sunday.
Ku. Venkatachalam, legendary bio-diversity campaigner who retrieved a number of traditional paddy varieties from the brink of extinction, would preside over the event.
Only because the Ponni was permitted to be exported in the lines of Basmati last year, the price is moderate now though not much encouraging, Mr. Rajendran added.
When asked why a ‘Traditional Seeds Centre' should promote Ponni, a hybrid variety developed by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, he said “though it was a hybrid variety, it possess many traits of traditional varieties and is suitable for conditions in Tamil Nadu.
Though it is a long duration variety farmers are happy to cultivate it since it is largely pest resistant and requires fewer amounts of fertilizers.
It fails less often when compared to other hybrid varieties cultivated in Tamil Nadu. Ponni seedlings of even 60-80 days of age could be replanted to successful yield” he said.
“Unlike other hybrid varieties which develops ear in the Tamil month of Aippasi, the Ponni develops ear in the month of Karthigai and could be harvested in Margazhi, like a traditional variety. Most of the crop failures in other hybrid varieties are due to ear development in Aippasi which was deemed as mark of unsuccessful crop. That's why we are insisting on protecting Ponni,” said Mr. Rajendran.
Of course the centre campaigns and strives for conservation of traditional varieties of paddy like Thuyamalli, Kalarpalai, Vadan Samba etc.