Rakthashali proves to be the surprise packet

Nayanan C.C., his wife and son at Kombankuzhy padasekharam where Rakthashali is being grown on Saturday. (Photo credit: Suresh Alleppey)   | Photo Credit: P.R. SURESH

Nayanan C.C., a Health Department employee-cum-research scholar, has been growing paddy for the past several years.

Along with other farmers, he sowed paddy — Uma variety in five acres and Rakthashali variety in half an acre — on leased land at the Kombankuzhy padasekharam, spread over 110 acres, in July as part of the second crop season.

Then came the floods and the padasekharam (paddy field) was inundated on August 7. When the waters receded after three weeks, paddy cultivated in 109.5 acres at Kombankuzhy were destroyed. Although the field where he sowed Rakthashali too was inundated, the rice variety withstood the flood much to the surprise of farmers and agriculture experts.

Rakthashali, a nearly extinct variety of rice, has proved to be flood-tolerant too, albeit not scientifically. It is supposed to have high medicinal value.

Nayanan says he is cultivating the Rakthashali variety for the first time.

“I decided to cultivate Rakthashali in an organic way in half an acre after knowing about its medicinal value. When the floodwaters receded from the padasekharam by August 28, we thought the green shoots left in the field were weeds. On inspection it turned out to be rice plants,” says, Nayanan, an employee at the Government Medical College, Alappuzha.

After the news spread, several environmentalists and experts visited his paddy field. A resident of Thirumala ward in Alappuzha municipality, he bought Rakthashali seeds from M.K. Sebastian, a farmer based at Kaduthuruthy. Rakthashali, with red husk and grain, is considered uneconomical compared to high-yielding rice varieties.

Reena Mathew, Associate Director, Regional Agricultural Research Station, Kumarakom, says that more research is needed to understand the factors and conditions that make it flood-tolerant. “So far, studies, including by the Rice Research Station at Mankombu, have not pointed to the flood-tolerant nature of Rakthashali. Nobody has come across the flood/ submergence tolerance of Rakthashali. It is also doubtful whether the Rakthashali being cultivated now is the original traditional variety. We hope to conduct more studies based on the Kombankuzhy experience,” Ms. Mathew says.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 8:16:04 AM |

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