Edapho-climatological factors have made rice the staple food of eastern India since times immemorial. There were more than 5,000 region specific indigenous rice varieties (folk rice) in West Bengal and a 1930 survey report showed that undivided Bengal had 15,000 rice varieties; the majority of them belonging to what is now Bangladesh. These had been selected and developed from a single crop species of rice – Oryza sativa – by visionary farmers of times past to meet the food security of future generations. Both their contribution and their vision remain unacknowledged. Each variety is unique with specific characters: disease resistance, flood tolerance, flood and drought tolerance, high grain yielder, aroma and such others. Farmer-selected crop varieties are not only adapted to local soil and climatic conditions but are also fine-tuned to diverse local ecological conditions and cultural preferences (Deb 2009). Kalonunia and Chamarmani are blast resistant, for instance. Lowlying areas in West Bengal are replete with flood tolerant varieties. A wide genetic base provides “built-in insurance” (Harlan 1992) against crop pests, pathogens and climatic vagaries.
Check out the full article in the Feb.-Mar. 2016 issue of Farmers’ Forum magazine, on pages 55 to 63.