Providing a ray of hope to the farmers in the Vembanad region, the scientists at the Rice Research Station, Vyttila, have launched a project which might put a tab on the long pending problem of salinity intrusion in paddy fields.
The research is on to cross the saline tolerant and traditional variety ‘Pokkali’ with the high yielding varieties of Kuttanad.
The scientists hope they can produce a new variety which will have the key features of both varieties.
“The Pokkali variant has a unique quality of being saline tolerant, but is very low yielding.
Cross-breeding Pokkali with traditional high yielding varieties, we get a new breed which will have the qualities of both the prominent varieties.
This is called introgression of genes,” said V Sreekumar, Head of the Department, Rice Research Station, Vyttila.
He said that the intrusion of saline content to Kuttanad paddy fields has always posed threats to the farmers.
Thanneermukkam barrage, which has been built to prevent the salinity intrusion, is causing ecological problems.
“If the barrage is opened, it will give nightmares to the paddy farmers, as their crops will be destroyed.
Whereas, if it is not opened, the fishermen will be in trouble as it will block the fish resources.
Keeping this in mind, we hope to produce a variety which can not only resist salinity, but also fight the vagaries of nature,” he said.
This innovative venture is being undertaken under the project ‘Eco restoration of Vembanad’.
Shyla Raj, who conducts research in this arena said that each generation of different plants has to be screened to check whether it possess the required gene.
“It is not an easy task.
The plant that meets our criterion has to be back crossed several times to churn out the wanted properties,” she said.
Shyla said efforts are on to cross the seed of Pokkali with the prominent varieties of Kuttanad -Jyothi, Uma and Jaya, which is a national variety.
The project is financed by the 13th Finance Commission.
Though the authorities said they are confident of the end result, the project is time consuming.
“It will take about four to five years for its completion. But we hope that our efforts will be rewarded,” they said.