The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University – Anbil Dharmalingam Agricultural College and Research Institute at Navalur Kuttapattu near here has taken up a research project on developing fine rice variety suited for salt-affected soil.

This is the first time that the institute, which is to celebrate its silver jubilee next year, has taken up a research project on fine rice variety. The institute was started to evolve rice varieties for saline soil about two decades ago and so far it has released three varieties —TRY-I, TRY-(R) II and TRY-III, all these were bold grain varieties.

“We have collected a large number of species from the International Rice Research Institute in Philippines and all these seeds are salt tolerant varieties in different parts of the world. The fine variety will fetch attractive returns to farmers and the research is in progress,” says P. Pandiarajan, dean of the Institute.

Several beds of nurseries for various varieties had been raised at the institute. “We have been experimenting on the varieties which can withstand and grow in the soil condition in the Manikandam area,” he says.

Pointing out that the Manikandam block accounted for 50,000 hectares of alkaline soil – maximum for a single block in the State, Mr. Pandiarajan said the institute had introduced reclamation of salt-affected soil using distillery spent wash.

So far, about 5,000 acres of land had been covered under the scheme benefiting 1,282 farmers growing paddy, banana, redgram and maize. The distillery spent wash was applied only once in these fields with a view to ensure environmental protection and the irrigation pattern and harvest benefits were closely monitored. The spent wash eliminates the use of potash in the fields.

“The discharge of distillery spent wash into the agricultural fields in the block reduces the alkaline quantum to a great extent. The yield has increased to a considerable extent — at least by 20 per cent over the normal yield registered during the previous seasons,” he says.

The institute has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with four leading distillery industries in the district.