India is home to an incredible diversity of both wild and cultivated crops. Diversity is one of the main characteristics of nature and also the very basis of ecological stability. Diverse ecosystems give rise to diverse life forms and diverse cultures and that forms the basis of sustainability. CIKS has focused at identifying important traditional seed varieties and orienting the agricultural community towards conserving and cultivating them.

When CIKS began the seed conservation initiative, we found not more than a handful of indigenous varieties. Today, many paddy and vegetable varieties are being conserved in farmers’ fields and experimental farms. We have documented in detail the agronomic properties of the conserved paddy varieties. We have also carried out preliminary studies on the nutritional properties of selected few varieties.

Traditionally a stupendous variety of paddy has been conserved and nurtured in various parts of the country which are suited to a variety of regions due to properties such as the following:

  • Varieties that are suited to different soil types – clayey, sandy soils etc.
  • Varieties with different durations ranging from short duration crops of 90 days to many others that may mature between 180 to 360 days.
  • Varieties having resistance to specific pests or a range of pests.
  • Varieties having resistance to particular diseases.
  • Varieties that may be requiring very small amounts of water for cultivation (drought resistant varieties) to those that may even be flood resistant.
  • Varieties that are valuable because of the quality and quantity of straw which is of importance for the making of thatches, fodder for cattle etc.
  • Varieties that may be cultivated in saline or alkaline soils.
  • There are also varieties that have range of distinct nutritional and therapeutic properties such as – Those that are suited for specific products such as puffed rice or pounded rice.
  • Varieties suited for specific preparations such as biriyani, puttu, murukku etc. Aromatic rice varieties.
  • Varieties that have a high content of nutrients such as calcium (suited for pregnant and lactating mothers), iron, phosphorous or energy.
  • Varieties that have a low Glycemic Index (GI).
  • Varieties that are indicated in the treatment of specific conditions such as filariasis.

The work of CIKS in conservation of indigenous rice varieties was consolidated under a new initiative called “Namma Nellu” (literally meaning “Our rice” in Tamil) in October 2016.  It was envisioned as a “Crowd Funding” effort through which CIKS invited individuals and organisations to contribute to the conservation of various indigenous rice varieties in public interest.  Indigenous varieties cannot be accessed from the cold storage seed banks maintained by research institutes and agricultural universities.  These are only available in limited quantity and not accessible by farmers.  It is only meant for researchers and scientists.  Rare indigenous varieties should be multiplied and made available to the needy farmers and in turn to the needy public.

Please visit Namma Nellu website for more information.