Ponni variety has been popular among Tamil Nadu famers for a long time but the origin and source from which it was developed is still not known.
The variety is resistant to leaf yellowing (tungro virus), blast and bacterial blight diseases.
Though the grain yield is less (4 - 4.5 tonnes from a hectare) than other commercial varieties, farmers preferred this variety owing to its fine quality and premium price in the market.
Initially, called “mashuri kuttai” the yield realised by farmers was very low due to admixtures and segregated population with the variations in crop duration ranging from 90 to 140 days.
Plant breeders at Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute (TRRI), Aduthurai had collected 300 samples of seeds, from various locations in state, screened and finally selected three improved lines for further selection.
After strenuous efforts the new improved white ponni was released in 1986 and even today finds ready acceptance from farmers. It is a 130-135 duration varirty and suitable for late samba/thaladi season in Cauvery delta.
The improved variety was tested in 11 districts of which in eight districts it recorded higher yield of 5.8 per cent than IR 20 variety.
It recorded 300 kg/ha more yield than traditional ponni and has yield potential up to 7.4 tonnes per hectare. It is suitable for raw and parboiled rice consumption.
Besides excellent grain quality, other special features include its resistance to many diseases such as tungro virus, leaf yellowing, blast and bacterial leaf blight.
It grows tall and well under restricted fertilizer use especially nitrogen application which should be limited to 75-100 tonnes per hectare depending upon the soil fertility and climate.
Organic farmers mostly prefer this variety as it responds well under natural nutrients supply.
(Dr. R. Rajendran is presently Director- in- charge,Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute, TNAU, Aduthurai – 612 101, Tamil Nadu, Phone: 0435-2472108 and 2472098, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)