B.K. Deva Rao of Mittabagilu village, 16 km from Ujire, now sows them on rotation basis on 42 plots spread over six acres on the foothills of the Western Ghats.
He cultivated 40 varieties from April to October and the other 40 from October to March. Hence, all were saved. According to him, he used only “hatti gobbara” (organic manure) to grow them.
The paddy in his possession includes not just the ones cultivated in the coastal belt but also elsewhere. It includes some hybrid varieties as well.
Pointing out at a Manipuri variety, Mr. Rao told The Hindu that the grain was light blue in colour. A doctor had given him a Thailand variety called “Jasmine”, he said.
Mr. Rao said that till 1979, he had grown 40 varieties of paddy. It was from then that he started using chemical fertilizers till 1988 as the government introduced hybrid varieties such as IR-8, Jaya and Shakthi during this period.
As the focus shifted to hybrid varieties, sowing traditional ones lagged behind. Hence, the stock of varieties came down to nine. During this time, he observed that the soil had turned hard due to the use of chemical fertilizers.
Subsequently, Mr. Rao said, he switched to natural farming and after 2000, he started collecting varieties that he had lost and the ones which were not in his possession.
Mr. Rao said that some of the traditional varieties such as “Samunga” or “Kumkuma” were still not available. “Kolanjipille” and “Jeerigesale” varieties are also lost, he said.
Some of the varieties in his possession are “Meese Bhatta”, “Kalame”, “Atikaya”, “Raja Kayame”, “Suggi Kayame”, “Tonnur”, “Navara”, “Gandhasale”, “Aden Kelte”, “Gidda Bhatta” and “Shasthitka (a two-and-a-half month crop).
His son, B.K. Parameshwar Rao, a mechanical engineer-turned-agriculturist, said that usually paddy seed lost full germination capacity if stored beyond eight months after harvest. Hence, they would have to be sown annually to preserve quality.
Mr. Deva Rao has received awards and felicitations from government departments and non-government organisations for his attempt to preserve paddy varieties.