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Pokkali rice seedlings travel from Kerala to the Sunderbans

Khudiram Halder, who has brought pokkali seeds from Kerala, sowing them in his village in Mathurapur Block-2, Sundarbans, West Bengal.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Two farmers in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal are betting on the pokkali variety of rice from Kerala to tide over a crisis-like situation created by severe seawater incursion into paddy fields in vast areas of the Sundarbans after the cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal on May 20.

The pokkali variety of rice is known for its saltwater resistance and flourishes in the rice paddies of coastal Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts. The uniqueness of the rice has brought it the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and is the subject of continuing research.

Ramkumar Mandal and Khudiram Halder, who have brought about 30 cents of land under pokkali sowing on an experimental basis, said from their village in Mathurapur Block-2 that they heard of the saltwater resistant pokkali rice through the Breakthrough Science Society, which has science clubs in the Sundarbans.

Eminent physicist Soumitro Banerjee of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata, who is a member of the science society, said that pokkali rice had been in the news because of its uniqueness and also because a group of people in Kerala have been trying to revive the cultivation of the rice variety in the State. Dr. Banerjee said that the science society was aware of the problem facing the farmers in the Sundarbans and it was decided that pokkali seeds could be tried out as saltwater incursion had been quite serious in vast areas of the Sundarbans.

Mr. Mandal said that about 80% of the rice paddies in the Sundarbans faced the problem of saltwater incursion and if the pokkali experiment succeeded, it would be a good step to turn around the fortunes of the farmers. He said that the seedlings were doing well so far.

Vytilla-11 variety

Five kilos of Vyttila-11 variety of pokkali seedlings were sent by post by Francis Kalathungal, who is part of the Pokkali Samrakshana Samithi, which has been at the vanguard of a movement to revive pokkali cultivation and prevent it from dying out. He said on Tuesday that the success of the experiment in the Sunderbans will be a big boost to pokkali cultivation even in Kerala.

Vyttila-11 is the latest variety to come out of Kerala Agricultural University’s field station in Vyttila, said Dr. A. K. Sreelatha of the Rice Research Station. She said that Vyttila-11 promises better yield of about 5 tonnes per hectare than the previous varieties, and is crossed with the Jyoti variety of rice popular in Kerala. The crop duration is about 110 days.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 6:24:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pokkali-rice-seedlings-travel-from-kerala-to-the-sunderbans/article32278833.ece

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