Of Indigenous Varieties and High Yields

Bharat Dogra

The period after mid-sixties is generally regarded as the 'green revolution' phase of Indian agriculture. The most important feature of this technology boom in agriculture is the introduction of HYV seeds. There can be several types of HYVs. For example, in Madhya Pradesh some indigenous rice varieties have been found to give very high yields even by traditional methods of cultivation without the use of chemical fertilisers. However, in the official programmes of improved agriculture in India, generally only those (dwarf, non-lodging) varieties which gave high yields when fed by chemical fertilisers were included. Therefore one should call them HRVs (High Response Varieties) rather than HYVs.

In Madhya Pradesh (which at that time included Chattisgarh) Dr Richharia's research revealed that several indigenous rice varieties gave high yields without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Unfortunately, these traditional high-yielding varieties were not given official recognition. As Dr Richaria noted, ‘in fact in every rice growing locality, the growers themselves say which of their own varieties are high yielding to which they stick. But under the extension services, the definition of high yielding rice variety is different which necessarily involves a dwarfing gene and, therefore, growers’ own high yielding varieties are not recognised which are estimated to be 8 or 9 percent in MP’.

Writing in the specific context of rice, India's most important food crop, Dr Richharia said that the importance of traditional wisdom of farmers is tied up with the fact that different varieties are needed for different conditions. He wrote, "If we were to think of a single characteristic feature of the rice crop which yields food for millions, it cannot be anything else unless it be its (1) variability in the form of thousands of its cultivars, spread in India and in other rice growing belts of the world. This is because of the rice plant's flexible genetic make-up and mutational power to adaption. This means the concept of ‘wider adaptability’ does not work in rice and (2) The rice farmers stick to their own varieties, as they (rice farmers) possess their deep knowledge to harvest a crop even under the most stress situations and they also possess high yielding varieties of their own which are generally not included in extension programmes (a major lapse) e.g., in a survey, carried out in Madhya Pradesh between 1971-74, 8 percent of the indigenous rice types were observed to fall under the category of high yielding types, fixing the minimum limit of 3705 kg/Ha."

An important publication, written by Dr R H Richharia in 1977 was titled ‘A strategy for rice production to ensure sustained growth in Madhya Pradesh’. With Mansanto and others destroying indigenous seeds it deserves serious attention.

"During 1975, nucleus seeds of 967 improved cultures under BD (Baronda) series were sent out to different locations (Govt seed multiplicaiion farms and farmers’ holdings) in 17 different districts, mostly tested under normal fertility with no plant protection measures applied. The result, obtained from eleven districts, only, are presented in Appendices 1 to 5 of ARRC Note No 9. The average of 121 entries works out to be 3984 kg/Ha of paddy grain or 2669 kg/ha, of rice. In terms of the definition of a high yielding variety in respect of yield 3705 kg/Ha, as accepted by the MP Agriculture Deptt., the improved material recommended here can be accepted as high yielding." Comparative high yields observed in some trials are also detailed in this publication including some extremely high yields.

‘‘There are many good cultures tested at Seoni Malwa during 1978 which can be quoted to establish that very productive germ-plasm exists in different parts of Madhya Pradesh which can be utilized in increasing rice yields.’’

This document offers ‘‘direct proof to establish that the selected material in the form of Bd: series possesses superior yield potential which can form the basis to increase rice production in immediate future with added advantage that they are palatable and they show resistance to pest and to periodical drought to some extent.

‘‘They have been bred under no plant protection umbrella. This production potential must be tapped and antagonism against indigenous types has to disappear.’’

Then this document goes on to separately describe the already identified indigenous high yielding varieties, early-maturing varieties, drought—resistant varieties, scented varieties, special flavour varieties etc.

Dr Richharia emphasised that wisdom of local farmers regarding diverse rice varieties should be utilised as the major resource for improving rice cultivation. He emphasised that rice farmers who possess intimate knowledge of their rice varieties should be involved in the research effort, ‘‘even to guide us with their inherent gift.’’

‘‘A special advantage associated with indigenous high yielding rice germplasm identified for different tracts and situations, is that it possesses a good level of resistance to environmental stress and common diseases and pests, coupled with local preference for payability.’’

Vol. 46, No. 52, Jul 6 - 12, 2014