Saturday, May 9, 2015

NEWS: 153 ‘lost’ varieties of rice being revived in Tamil Nadu

DC | S. V. Krishna Chaitanya | May 08, 2015, 05.05 am IST

Representational Image
Representational Image
Chennai: A little known farmer in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvarur district is tirelessly engaged in conserving and reviving traditional rice varieties that should help reverse the ill-effects of eye-catching, fluffy white rice varieties many people consume oblivious of their harmful effects. If switched back to good old, organically grown rice varieties of rice, the risk of diseases like Type-2 diabetes can be averted, say experts.
A visit the farm of R. Jayaraman, an ordinary farmer from Adirangam village in Thiruthurai-poondi in Thiruvarur district, is worthwhile. With hardly any professional education, the 49-year-old Jayaraman has been able to trace and conserve 153 ‘lost’ traditional rice varieties of Indian origin, which are known to have distinct medicinal properties, ideal in combating lifestyle diseases like diabetes and resist natural calamities like drought and floods.
A school dropout, he has made it his life mission to revive the traditional rice varieties, which for thousands of years have adapted to climate changes. Speaking to the Deccan Chronicle, Mr. Jayaraman said these rice varieties “are purely organic and highly nutritious compared to today’s hybrid forms”.
Some of the top varieties cultivated in his 10-acre farm are Mappillai samba (controls sugar levels), Thouni (black rich in anti-oxidants), Poongar (ideal for pregnant women), Palkudavalai (good for heart patients), Elupaipu Samba (its gruel rejuvenates even bed-ridden). Mr. Jayaraman said there is another variety called ‘Chiraga samba’, used for making ‘biryani’ due to its natural fragrance. “The advantage of most of these traditional varieties is they have resistance to drought and floods.
They grow 6-7 feet tall and require less watering. Another rice variety, ‘Panag kattu kudavazai’ is suitable for salt and seawater intruded areas.
‘Kattaisamba’ is again another treasured variety, which can grow even in waterlogged areas. To spread awareness, Mr. Jayaraman organises national-level traditional paddy seed festival annually at his village, where he distributes 2 kg of paddy seeds to participating farmers. This novel initiative started in 2006 with just 16 varieties, will be held this year at his village farm on May 30-31.


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