New paddy varieties give record production

G. Prabhakaran

They have been developed from near-extinct varieties of Palakkad

PALAKKAD: Two varieties of paddy developed from near-extinct "Thavalakannan" and "Chenkazhama," traditional varieties of Palakkad, have yielded a record 8,000 kg a hectare at Pattambi and Thrissur.

PC 1 cultivated on 600 hectares of paddy fields in Pattambi and PC 2 on 300 hectares in Thrissur for the second crop has given that much yield. For Puncha (third crop), PC 1's yield was 9,000 kg a hectare. PC 2 under Puncha recorded 8,438 kg a hectare as against the average yield of 5,000 kg.

The result of hybridisation and selection attempts conducted for the last 10 years by a senior scientist, P. Chandrasekharan, retired Dean of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, is a 30 to 50 per cent increase in grain per panicle. He has crossbred the traditional varieties with IR-8, a high-yielding dwarf variety.

Dr. Chandrasekharan told The Hindu here on Friday that the new varieties were getting popular among farmers, especially in Palakkad, Kuttanad and the "Kole" farms of Thrissur.

Long before the arrival of dwarf high-yielding varieties, farmers of Palakkad, rice bowl of Kerala, used to grow a number of tall varieties, which were land races (farmer-developed varieties adapted to local conditions).

"Thavalakannan" was a popular variety because of the taste of its rice, high recovery of grain from paddy after milling (more than 60 per cent) and ability of cooked rice to be preserved in cold water for a long time without its losing hardness and taste. "Cold rice" was cherished by the rice farmer since it was his early-morning meal next day.

Dr. Chandrasekharan said PC 1 and PC 2 had succeeded because of the importance given to the tall varieties. Land races provided "adaptability genes" for specific environmental conditions. Incorporation of "adaptability genes" from land races only could ensure optimum grain yields for the region.

"Matta Thriveni" (PTB 45), developed by the Pattambi Rice Research Station, reportedly yielded 10,000 kg a hectare in "Kole" cultivation, whereas locally, it yielded up to 5,500 kg.

This variety was the matta version of Thriveni (PTB 38), a white-rice variety. Thriveni was developed from Annapoorna (PTB 35) and PTB 15, a land race, Kavungin Poothala, which used to be cultivated in deep soils under waterlogged conditions prevailing in "Kole" lands.

It was in "Kole" areas and Kuttanad that Matta Thriveni had given higher yields. Therefore, success of "Matta Thriveni" was due to "adaptability genes" provided by the land races Kavunginpoothala and Thekken Cheera.

Dr. Chandrasekharan said Kerala, a food-deficit State producing only one-fifth of its rice requirement, should develop paddy incorporated with "adaptability genes."