Kerala

Why some farmers in Kuttanad are shifting to new rice varieties

A view of the Vadakara Edassery Varabinakam padasekharam (paddy field) at Edathua in Kuttanad that has cultivated the Manuratna rice variety for the first time in the additional crop season.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Uma, the most popular rice variety in the State, is being cultivated in about 60% of the paddy fields across Kerala. In Kuttanad, the rice bowl of the State, the variety is well liked and is grown in over 90% of fields.

However, after remaining a farmer-favourite for the past several years due to its relative high-yield and pest resistance, paddy farmers in the region appear to be ready to ditch Uma for more hybrid varieties.

The 200-acre Vadakara Edassery Varabinakam padasekharam (paddy field) at Edathua is among the first to cultivate Manuratna, a rice variety developed by the Agricultural Research Station under the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) in the region.

"In the last 20-odd years, we have only cultivated the Uma variety. Over the years, its resistance started to decline and we shifted to Manuratna variety in the additional (second) crop season (May/June - September/October). One big advantage is that Manuratna takes shorter duration for harvesting. While Uma takes around 145 days for harvest in the second crop season, Manuratna takes only 100-105 days. The new variety is also highly resistant to pest attacks,” says Cyriac Jose, secretary, Vadakara Edassery Varabinakam padasekharam.

The incessant rain in the last couple of weeks has partially destroyed the harvest-ready crop at Edathua. “We could have received a yield between 2.5 and 3 tonnes from an acre if it was not for the heavy downpour and floods. The new variety provides yield almost on a par with Uma,” says Mr. Jose.

Apart from the paddy field at Edathua, a few other such as Chooravady Varambikanam padasekharam and Undhumveli padasekharam have also shifted to Manuratna.

Good substitute

“My own experience is that the Manuratna variety is a good substitute for Uma in all aspects. The seed shattering is less and it helps to increase the yield. It also tastes better,” says Sasidharan Nair, secretary, Chooravady Varambikanam padasekharam at Thakazhi.

The Agriculture Department expects at least a few more padasekharams to ditch Uma for Manuratna and Manuvarna among other varieties in the upcoming ‘puncha’ season. Cultivating different varieties decreases the chances of diseases.

“Farmers always look for yield and pest resistance. Uma is giving them relatively good returns. That is why farmers prefer this variety over other seeds. However, of late, a shift has started, with some fields cultivating new varieties. We are ready to provide farmers with seeds of their choice,” says K.J. Mercy, deputy director, Agriculture Department, Alappuzha.


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 7:55:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/why-some-farmers-in-kuttanad-are-shifting-to-new-rice-varieties/article37009717.ece

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