A paddy revival in the works in Kancheepuram

By Times Of India on 01 May 2018 | read
Chennai: Kuzhiyadichan, a traditional paddy variety, once widely recommended for lactating mothers, Kattiyanam, another type of grain that would grow as tall as a sugarcane and Mappilai Samba, considered auspicious for newlyweds. Many of these indigenous paddy seeds were lost due to unscientific farming practices, particularly in Tamil Nadu. And Kancheepuram, the robust paddy-cultivating district, considered ‘dead’ agriculturally.

Rooting for a revival, a few experts are now joining hands with farmers to ensure traditional seeds make a comeback in Kancheepuram. To realise this goal, a year ago, seed bank project was launched at Morapakkam, a village 5km from Maduranthakam. At least 13 varieties of paddy seeds were supplied to farmers. Last week, the farmers returned the seeds after the first season of yield, raising hopes that the forgotten paddy varieties will see new seasons again. Creating marketing options for farmers, the experts launched three seed banks a week ago and supplied seeds to 500 farmers in the district. Green Cause Foundation along with Bioversity International (an FAO) organisation was instrumental in setting up three seed banks in Kancheepuram district.

M J Prabhu, agricultural expert and one of the organisers of the event, says it was challenging initially to convince farmers to cultivate traditional paddy seeds using organic materials. “Many had left paddy cultivation and moved to other fields. We had to convince them,” said Prabhu, adding that repeated awareness programmes helped. It has been a year since the initiative began, and farmers in Kancheepuram have successfully cultivated 13 traditional paddy varieties. As a token of respect, they returned four kilogrammes of paddy seeds each to Nel Jayaraman, the man who revived more than 160 varieties of traditional seeds in Tamil Nadu, and from whom farmers had collected the seeds last year. “They got seeds of paddy varieties like Jeeraka Samba, Swarna masuri from me. Today they have returned the seeds. It’s a good gesture. If they continue to cultivate more, it will help,” said Jayaraman.

The key to populrise traditional varieties is to know which seed is suitable to what kind of weather. “We have a wide range of paddy seeds for each season. Some seeds need less water, and some are drought-resistant. If we choose the seed suitably, we can expect a good yield,” he said.

The medicinal value of traditional paddy seeds is a big advantage, feels Prabhu, especially since people are looking for healthy organic alternatives today. Seeraka samba, according to him, can reduce bad cholesterol. “We chose the seeds keeping the health aspects in mind. We have selected 36 villages and in each village we are planning to distribute one seed. The first season is now over and we are looking for various marketing options. We will cover more areas in the coming months,” said Prabhu.