The Centre for Rice Germplasm at the Rice Research Station, Mankombu, under Kerala Agricultural University, has developed new rice varieties with reduced harvesting cycle and increased pest and disease resistance to fight climate change.
The centre which aims to preserve rare and near-extinct varieties of rice and create new hybrid types has already collected more than 500 varieties of rice including 110 traditional ones.
According to Prof S Leenakumari, who heads the research station, pest attack on paddy is on the rise because of climatic changes. “Hybridisation is essential if we are to create new varieties that are insect-resistant and can effectively fight climate change,” she said. The genetic resources of traditional varieties are used as a donor for developing a new variety.
Genes of some rare traditional varieties are like njavara, kaladi aariyan (Wayanad), thavalakannan, vellathil kolappala, kochu vittu (a rare variety from Onattukara), chetti viripu, azhimodan, oru mundakan have been used to develop new varieties suitable for below sea level farming in areas like Kuttanad.
According to Prof R Devika, unpredictable change in climatic conditions that alternates from severe flood to droughts is a challenge for the farmers. “Good quality seeds are a necessity. So we have developed rice varieties that have reduced harvesting time with high yield potential and tolerance to pest and diseases,” she said.
The existing varieties of rice take more than 120 days to take to reach the harvest period. “The aim is to reduce the sowing-reaping cycle to around 100 days, without affecting the yield using seeds that have good resistance power,” Devika said. The state government had allotted `5 crore for setting up the germplasm laboratory in the research station, but the finance wing is yet to transfer the fund.
The germplasm unit was therefore developed using the fund allotted by Kerala Agricultural University.