CHENNAI: MGR 100, yet another medium duration, high-yielding fine variety of rice, released by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) to mark the centenary of the late chief minister and AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran a couple of days ago, is already under cultivation and will be ready for consumption in five or six months.
The new variety of rice was released by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami at Thanjavur during the MGR centenary celebrations on Thursday.
“Since this paddy variety is meant for the second season (samba and thaladi), we have already distributed five tons of ‘truthfully labelled seeds’ to the farmers. So, this will be harvested in five months and starting from April, we will distribute the officially certified seeds to the farmers. So, MGR 100 rice will be ready for consumption by that time,” K Ganesamurthy, director-in-charge, Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics, TNAU, told Express.
The MGR 100 variety (CO-52) is a derivative of cross BPT 5204/ CO(R) 50 and it matures in 130-135 days. It is a good replacement for BPT 5204 due to its high grain yield, superior grain quality and pest and disease resistance. This variety with its outstanding performance and quality was approved by State variety release committee this year.
Way back in 1970, the State Agriculture department released a variety Karuna and in 1992, another variety JJ-1992, a basmati rice variety. In 1994, MGR1, a hybrid variety of rice was released. Incidentally, all these three varieties named after leaders are not used for cultivation now. Explaining the reason, Ganesamurthy said, “When new varieties which can give higher yield and have pest-resistance are getting released, the farmers would stop using the older ones.
A variety can withstand for around 10 to 15 years. Every replacement variety will have more additional features. After 10 years, the variety becomes genetically deteriorated because of cross pollination or due to ‘genetic drift’. So, we need not keep a particular variety for a long time.”
Asked about how the traditional varieties of paddy are prevailing in the State for long, he said, “Scientifically speaking, any variety has to be notified and an established research institution has to maintain its features. In different stages, the genetic purity of the seeds has to be maintained. Technically it is called ‘maintenance breeding’. In the preservation unit, the seeds would be kept under 5 degree Celsius for medium or long term. It is being done at the national and international level to preserve the old varieties. For the very old varieties, no such track record has been maintained.”
“When we need a particular plant character, such preservation is useful. People have been opting for fine varieties of paddy. Of late, they have turned to paddy with fibre-content. So, anytime, there may be a different demand from the people. At that time, we will roll out a new variety by using the ‘hybridisation followed by selection’ method. So people’s taste changes time to time. In Kerala, people still like red rice. In some places, farmers ask for ‘short-bold variety of paddy’. Some time ago, IR8 and IR20 varieties were very much wanted. Now, the demand is not there,” he added.
JJ 92 is a basmati variety that is mostly used for making biriyani. Since the people of Tamil Nadu generally use ‘kichadi samba’ (short slender grain with aroma) for making biriyani, the variety did not evoke good response from the people. Since MGR 1 is a hybrid variety, the TNAU had already released many advanced varieties as replacement over the years. So, that is also not in cultivation now.
In Tamil Nadu, out of 20 lakh hectares, 10-lakh-hectare area is covered with medium duration rice varieties. Among them, Improved White Ponni and BPT 5204 are the predominant varieties grown by the farmers for their superior grain quality. However, these varieties are susceptible to major pests and diseases and a suitable variety for replacement is needed, he said.