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Birthday celebration of a grain

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Hardy: A field with the Uma variety of paddy.
Hardy: A field with the Uma variety of paddy.

K.S. Sudhi

The popular ‘Uma’ variety of rice grain completes a decade

KOCHI: It was the 10th birthday celebration of a rice grain that feeds the State.

‘Uma,’ a hybrid rice grain developed by the Mankombu Rice Research Station of the Kerala Agricultural University, has completed a decade of farming in the State. During this period, Uma has established itself as the numero uno rice grain in Kerala. It has also achieved the distinction of being the rice variety that is cultivated in more than 50 per cent of the paddy fields in Kerala.

It is estimated that Uma is being cultivated in over 1 lakh hectares and feeds the State more than any other variety.

To mark the 10th birthday of the development of the grain, the scientists who worked for around 15 years to develop the variety met at Kumarakom last week. Agricultural scientists, including C.A. Joseph, L. Rema Devi, D. Ambika Devi, N. Ramabhai, R. Devika, Vasudevan Nair, S. Leenakumari and Ahmed Regina, were those who had striven hard to develop the variety. The researchers were felicitated at a function as a mark of appreciation of their efforts.

The features that make the variety the favourite of paddy growers is its capability to stand erratic climate, dormancy and high yield.

“Uma has the capability to withstand climate changes, including salinity, acidity and other unfavourable conditions,” said Prof. Leenakumari, who was the Principal Investigator of the research project during the late Eighties. The variety was cleared for farming in 1998.

The seed easily found its way to the hearts of the paddy farmers due to its resistance to Gall Midge pest attack. When most of the rice varieties succumbed to the attack that occurred between 1996 and 1998, the variety withstood it. While 90 per cent of the paddy crop was lost to the attack, only 3 per cent of Uma farming was lost, Prof. Leenakumari said.

The State had suffered a loss of Rs.80 crore in the pest attack.

Uma has an additional yield advantage of around 2 tonne per hectare over other varieties.

The farmers too stand to gain from farming, as their earning per hectare is estimated as around Rs. 18,000 per hectare, she said.

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