"From a training session at Basudha held by Dr Debal Deb, the seed warrior of India, our team members have learned how to preserve the genetic purity of the native paddy varieties. Paddy is mostly self-pollinating – however, if two different varieties are growing nearby, then there is a high chance of cross-pollination, which we need to prevent. We can preserve the genetic purity in many ways – by erecting shade nets as a physical barrier between the varieties, by planting varieties that flower at different periods next to each other and removing off-types that do not fit into the characters of those particular varieties," Himakiran, one of the founding trustees of Thondaimandalam Foundation, tells DT Next.
The main objective of the foundation is to cultivate and conserve the genetic purity of 150 paddy landraces at multiple agro-climatic zones within Tamil Nadu. "We characterise the varieties at different stages – at the time of sowing, before the grains are fully matured, after maturating, at the time of harvest as well as post-harvest. Any off-types that deviate from the varieties’ characteristics, we discard that plant to make sure that the genetic purity of the variety is maintained. There is a growing consciousness among consumers about the different nutritional and medicinal values of native paddy. These varieties with unique nutritional properties, and also being more pest and disease resistant hold the key for the nutritional and food security of India. If not for continued efforts of conservation, India stands to lose more native paddy varieties," he shares.