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Kerala Farmer Sets a Model by Conserving 71 Traditional Rice Varieties

Seventy-one indigenous rice types are being preserved, with seed sharing made possible by a farmer network.

Chintu Das
Rice Varieties
Rice Varieties

Sunil Kallinkara, 45, a progressive farmer in Cheeral on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, has set a model by conserving 71 traditional rice varieties from across the country on 38 acres of rented land, at a time when most farmers in the State have chosen to keep paddy fields fallow or cultivate cash crops like ginger, plantain, arecanut, and coconut owing to poor income from rice cultivation.

For many years, Kallinkara has been conserving rice seeds and propagating them in a participatory way with the help of farmer organizations from all across the nation. To maintain his crops healthy and disease-free, the farmer practices organic farming and employs self-made inputs such as Jeevamrutha, Beejamrutha, and a curd-jaggery mixture.

He began cultivating five traditional rice types, including fragrant kinds like Gandhakassala and Jeerakassala, on an acre of ancestral property about 30 years ago.

The farmer has preserved 71 types and increased his acreage from one to 48 acres, including 10 acres of his own property. He told, "Of the 71 varieties, the double-seeded Jugal of West Bengal is the most important for me." He stated that a single grain carries two to three seeds, and the variety produces 15 to 16 quintals per acre.

Organic farming has always been successful for him, with an average annual revenue of Rs 25,000 per acre. “After value-adding, I sell rice at a premium price and receive Rs 50 to Rs 150 per kilogram, depending on the variety,” he added. He also offers exotic seeds like Jugal for Rs 1,000 per kilogram.

Kallinkara was able to save the seeds thanks to a wide network of farmers and farmer consortiums across the country, as well as timely support from scientists from the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

Farmers share several uncommon rice species such as Kalabhat, Black Jasmin, Malli Kuruva, and Saraswathy, according to Joseph John, MSSRF scientist.

Farmers openly trade and share seeds to make conservation efforts simpler, according to Joseph, and the network has set a precedent for the whole agricultural community in the country.

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