This article is a condensed version of a proposal prepared in 1983 by Dr.R.S.Richharia, the well-known rice scientist, for increasing rice production in India. We are informed that this proposal had been made by him in response to an enquiry from the Prime Minister's Office. For most part, the presentation here is in Dr.Richharia's own words, even though the material has been reorganized and condensed by us. We are grateful to Dr.Richharia for making a copy of his report available to us, as well as for permitting us to present the same in a condensed form – Editor.
Rice (Oryza Sativa) originated in India, from where it spread to the whole of Asia (where now 92 percent of rice is produced and eaten) and other parts of the world. It is now grown in nearly 110 countries. Rice grows where no other food crop can survive with ease. India is gifted with a rice climate where environments favor the growth of the rice plant and resources are freely available. The crop is grown throughout the year in some part of the country or the other with suitable rice verities – up to an altitude of 7000 feet above sea level and 10 feet below, and under rainfall varying between 20" and 200" (500 mm - 5000 mm).
If we were to think of a single characteristic feature of the rice plant which is responsible for its being grown over such a wide geographical area (India, SE Asia, China, Japan and parts of Africa, etc.), yielding food for millions, it is its variability in the form of thousands of its cultivars spread in India and other rice-growing belts of the world ('cent per cent of this variability exists in India itself). This is because of the rice plant's flexible genetic makeup and mutational power for adaptation under local environments. This explains why there were said to be many lakhs of varieties of rice in India. Dr.Richharia mentions that according to the Vedas, A lakh varieties of rice existed in India. Even today, estimates Dr.Richharia, 2 lakh varieties of rice exist in India alone. Every variety has a specific' purpose and utility. He has collected and identified 20,000 types within 10% of the Chattisgarh area of M.P alone. Rice farmers in every area of the country possess deep knowledge of their own varieties of rice, of their environmental and nutritional requirements, properties, and peculiarities etc. which enable them to harvest a crop even under the most severe stress situations. They have a preference for the taste and quality of these varieties. Farmers also possess high-yielding varieties of their own which are not recognized in the agricultural extension programmes. For example, in a survey carried but in MP between 1971-74, 8 per cent of the indigenous rice types were observed to fall under the category of high-yielding types, fixing the minimum yield limit for high yielding types at 3,705 kg/Ha.
Although many rice regions in India are gifted with a rice climate which can yield record yields compared to any other part of S.E. Asia, rice yields have been stagnating for the last two decades. In spite of the progressively increasing areas under irrigation and increased use of modern high yielding varieties (HYV) of rice, coupled with increased consumption of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, productivity in rice remain stagnant and unsterilized. The most immediate and major cause of this stagnation is the frequent replacement of the adapted rice varieties in a locality and the hurried introduction of the undesirable new rice material, the HYV's (dwarfs) - on which the modern ("Green Revolution") agricultural strategy is based - replacing even the reputed indigenous high-yielding variety of rices of each locality. The indigenous varieties have been developed in harmony with the eco-system. Due to the sudden introduction of new HYV's, the agro ecological balance has been disturbed in the environment in respect of the existing rice germplasm. The germplasm has been built up in course of time - for centuries by the natural process of empirical breeding and selection, establishing ecological balance in different environments. (In modern terms such breeding has been interpreted as "ecological breeding".) This balanced rice material also possesses high yield potential (see table I and II for example) but because such rice types have no place in our agricultural extension programmes, they remain confined to some growers only and naturally do not produce a marked impact on production. A gradual increase in productivity would have become a regular feature if this balance had not been disturbed*.
Indiscriminate introduction of HYV's under drought situations has also led to lowered yielded. (Indigenous varieties can fare well even under drought situations - if the appropriate varieties are chosen for cultivation). Further, under heavy fertilization and irrigation, the HYV's proved susceptible to diseases and pests which cannot be controlled easily. This has led to a further reduction of yields. Most importantly, the concept' of "wider adaptability" (a single variety being successful over a very wide area, which has been used in the case of wheat and sugarcane) is inapplicable in the case of rice. (According to Dr.Richharia, TN-1 performed well only, in 10% of the area it was introduced into, but it was claimed successful for the whole country). Any variety can be successful only in one or two places. Dr.Richharia feels strongly that HYV's with dwarfing genes cannot, succeed in more than 10% of the rice - growing areas.
In planning, stress was not laid on .improving the inexpensive local resources which matter in agriculture. Whereas our farmers have been "forward" in practice, our planning has been backward and one-sided, not synchronizing with the environment and resources. Importing of basic genes and inputs will not increase rice production. The stress in planning has been more on making Indian agriculture "factory oriented" i.e. dependent on fertilizers and pesticides produced in factories. This may lead to interruptions in the supply of inputs at the proper time. While there cannot be any objection to laying stress on increased use of fertilizers, encouragement for advancing local organic resources has to proceed side by side.
Citing examples of the Punjab and Haryana and a few other resourceful localities in support of the HYV's of foreign blood in rice and working out a strategy to extend them elsewhere, where environments are unfavorable to the increase of productivity, while neglecting the superior high yielding varieties, of indigenous origin, have been the main drawbacks of our planning. An approach initiated in 1964-65 to replace indigenous types by the little known rice germ-plasm (of HYV) while diverting the energy of our rice breeders in that direction, has created serious problems, in fact a crisis, in rice research.
Dr.Richharia points out that we must learn lessons from the failure of the two major rice (breeding programmes during the past three decades, viz: (i) the indica x japonica hybridization programme (1950-65) and (ii) the introduction of foreign rice variety Taichung (native) I (TN)-I), in 1964-65, and the release of the miracle rice IRS in India in 1966. The top plant breeders of the country who assembled at the CRRI, Cuttack in 1979 under the "Task force" appointed by the ICAR for the discipline of "Rice Breeding" concluded as follows: "Most of the HYV's are the derivatives of T (N)-I or IR8 and therefore, have the dwarfing gene of Dee-Geo-Woo-gn (DGWG). This narrow genetic base has created alarming uniformity, causing vulnerability to diseases and pests. Most of the released varieties are not suitable for tropical uplands and lowlands which together constitute about 75% of the total rice area of the country. To meet these situations, we need to reorient our research programmes and strategies".
In addition to the reorientation of the rice-breeding programme, already drawn up by the "Task Force" in 1979, it is imperative that the country's 1964-65 breeding programme (which nearly stands suspended) toj exploit the rich indigenous rice germplasm, is also resumed. Under this programme, about 445 improved varieties, bred for specific stress situations, showing environmental resistance to disease and pests were available in the country. To emphasize this point, yield potentials 1 of these rice varieties under normal soil fertility level are recorded [Table I (column 2)] to compare them with the average productivity in some major states, as reported in 1980-81 [Table I (column 3)] when an exclusive and all-out drive for HYV's of dwarf and semidwarf plant type (about 140 in number) was made for large-scale*cultivation for different agroclimatic conditions. This conclusively points to the adverse effects of modern HYV's in rice productivity. This stagnation in rice productivity could have been avoided with a little foresight and vigilance.
A strategy was worked out in 1974 on the rice production front in MP based on indigenous rice varieties. It noted: "There are many most-adapted, high yielding indigenous rice varieties existing in MP which resist the attack of diseases and pests in the main season. Many of them are also capable of producing still higher yields, when grown during the summer months. This discovery awaits exploitation intensively when the agricultural inputs (mainly the chemicals) are in short supply. The available fertilizers can be very economically utilized with these selected and genetically upgraded rice types, producing more rice per kg. of nutrient, applied at comparatively low levels of fertilization". But this work had to be closed down, as the MP Rice Research Institute of Raipur (a regd. body) where this work was being carried out was abolished, and the specific items of work, aiming at increasing the productivity of rice were stopped at the behest of IRRI and the World Bank. These considerations explain why rice productivity remains unsterilized and stagnant and predictions regarding the HYV-performance remain unfulfilled. If the HYV-programme is not suitably modified productivity will continue to remain stagnant.
Such a situation offers a great scope to execute an action plan for immediate increase in the productivity of rice, provided such a plan is based on (i) ready availability of resources locally, including indigenous rice varieties, and (ii) willingness and natural inclination of the rice farmers to accept the plan. Dr.Richharia’s action plan takes into account both of these factors. It envisages a direct approach to the rice farmers, "who are the real masters" of rice-growing in order to utilize their experience and practical knowledge of their own material. It is exclusively associated with the adapted rice germplasm of known origin and heredity which has sustained humanity and its culture for millennia. These indigenous varieties also respond to the application of modern technology within limits. Dr.Richharia emphasizes, "A self-generating economy and building up of local resources alone offer a permanent solution in rice and not dependence on external support which would always be limited and conditional". Local resources would also include forestry, to restore imbalances created in the environmental eco-system, in the typical rice areas.
The strategy formulated in this action plan is based on the indigenous germplasm in its hybridized form. This also retains the essential aspects of the 1974 strategic programme of MP with necessary modifications in the light of subsequent experience. Rice farmers are likely to willingly accept improved versions of their own varieties (retaining their original names), Dr.Richharia points out: "They know these varieties more accurately than we do, as we have not cared to study them and know them well. On the other hand, we have jumped on to other material least investigated, and introduced them as a blanket recommendation in all environments as HYV programme during the past two decades". In this plan, rice farmers, who possess intimate knowledge of their rice varieties, are associated directly. This plan thus seeks to become the rice farmers' own movement.
II. SPECIAL PLAN OF ACTION:
In this section we give a brief summary of the important aspects of the new plan of action on the rice front formulated by Dr.Richharia.
(a) Approach: As discussed in the introduction, there is a need for reorienting our strategy on the rice front Says Dr.Richharia "I am putting forward a specific plan of action for increase in production of rice, based on my work and long experience and keeping in view the recommendations of the rice scientists". The plan is based on the following principles, (i) A decentralized and direct approach to the rice farmers, to take them into confidence and associate there fully with the action plan, (ii) Employing simple field techniques and working with the farmers using their own rice varieties, (iii) Creating a movement for increased ice production, including those areas where traditionally rice is not a major crop, but where it can be introduced I as an additional crop, or a Catch-Crop. Dr.Richharia asserts: "Genetic upgrading of indigenous rice germplasm with certain manipulations, such as evolution of new hybrids and exploitation of hybrid vigours, utilizing pure material of local types is the only course left for stabilizing rice production at a higher level". The plan aims at creating 'a movement in the rural areas, where the growers are given a free hand in the choice of their own rice varieties. They would naturally demand improved seeds of their own varieties which can be supplied from "adaptive centers" described below:
(b) Important Feature of the plan: The document prepared by Dr.Richharia contains not only technical and scientific aspects of the proposed plan, but also organizational, financial, managerial and other details necessary to get the plan of action initiated. Starting with certain districts in Madhya Pradesh, the plan aims gradually to cover the entire state as well as all other rice regions of the country in a remarkably short time. It is perhaps significant that the document aimed at bringing about revolutionary changes in the country's agrarian scene, does appear rather 'simple', and does not possess the complexity and sophistication of similar documents prepared by the scientific and administrative agencies of the government. This is but a reflection of the larger philosophy itself which underlies the present action plan. We present here only some of the significant aspects and viewpoints contained in the document, and do not touch upon the managerial - financial - administrative sides of the plan.
(1) Establishment of rice farmers adaptive rice centers: This plan proposes that rural adaptive rice centers or farmers rice centers (Kisani Dhan Kendra) may be established, as many as possible, all over the country. 2-3 acres (about one hectare) of land would be made available for each centre, by the growers themselves, so that they consider it as their own work. Once the farmers realize the usefulness of such centers, they would voluntarily come forward so that this would become an all-India movement. To start with, a limited number of such centers would be established in a selected locality in every rice growing state with the cooperation of the local rice growers. The possibility of linking these centers with the nearby rice breeding centers and research stations, so as to be mutually beneficial, would have to be considered.
In every rice-growing area there are some rice growers who take keen interest in their local varieties and who are very much absorbed in them, so much so that they can trace back the history of individual rice varieties to their ancestry, and know all about their utility. Such selected and devoted rice-farmers would be put in charge of the centers. Some of these farmers can identify their rice varieties -amounting to thousands - in their own way (not in terms of modern knowledge of Botany). This faculty of selection and maintenance of thousands of rice cultivars gradually being accumulated for centuries, ever since rice was first discovered, would be preserved through these centers. Each rice centre would, therefore, be in the charge of an enlightened and willing rice grower who would have under him a paid field worker selected from the same locality and fully trained in modern technology, and two farm laborers. The adaptive rice centers will be the custodians of all local cultivars in their respective localities assembled immediately and supplemented, if necessary, by the already available materials of the locality at different research centers. These materials will be maintained under their natural habitat. These centers will be the local treasuries of rice germplasm.
During a survey in the Chattisgarh area, Dr.Richharia came across rice growers in remote areas, maintaining a large collection of rice varieties year after year, as part of the local custom. This explains, he says, how thousands of varieties have come down to us for centuries. Naturally such collections served as "modern treasuries" but in the absence of an organization to encourage such private endeavors, this valuable rice germplasm is vanishing rapidly, e.g. in a locality in the Raigarh district in Chattisgarh, the rice bowl of MP, about 50 years ago nearly one thousand rice varieties existed but so far only about 57 varieties could be assembled. Very valuable national wealth in the form of hundreds of valuable rice types has been lost. This process would be stopped by means of the rice centers. Thus the functions of the centers would -be: (i) to maintain the evolved rice genetic material for future studies and use. It is practically impossible to retain this material in its original form at a central place in India" or abroad. It can be maintained in its original condition at its [natural habitat, only with the help of rice growers themselves. (ii) To educate young farmers to appreciate the value and importance of their own material and to add new varieties.
There already exists a practice in some tribal areas that once in a year, at the beginning of the rice crop season, samples of rice varieties are brought before a religious head man in a village that counts them and predicts (that particular rice varieties would perform well during the ensuing season. Farmers then give preference to those types only.) These practices can be further strengthened through the establishment of rice centers.
(2) New meaning of the term "High yielding varieties": As mentioned in the introduction, Dr.Richharia considers the introduction of the alien HYV's of rice to be the prime cause for the stagnation and, instability of rice production in our country. Taking the yield to be the only parameter (and even that, being yield under certain specially created conditions and under strictly specified inputs and management) the Agricultural Departments have been trying to use a few selected varieties "over the widely varying conditions of the country. This is an unscientific approach to the problem and Dr.Richharia stresses the need to change this attitude towards choice of appropriate rice varieties for different regions. There exist indigenous high yielding" varieties of rice in every rice region -varieties that have adapted themselves to the conditions of that region, and about which the farmers have deep and intimate knowledge (for some typical examples', see Tables I & II). In every rice growing locality, the growers themselves can tell us which of their own varie-ties are high yielding. According to Dr.Richharia, a recent survey in MP has disclosed that the" farmers had not given up even a single one-of their high yielding varieties during the past 25 years. He continues "Our[experience in Chattisgarh (MP) proves that every improved rice variety of indigenous origin can serve as a high yielding variety if its optimum requirements, or a *package of practices', is worked out in the environment where it grows. Farmers already possess all-round experience with their varieties, and coupled with modern principles applied to them, these types will serve the purpose, provided they are treated at par with the accepted HYV's, receiving the same importance and attention. Such indigenous high yielding types inherit the special advantage of; natural adaptation to their environments". Dr.Richharia argues that the rice scientists are well aware of the need to change the present notion of HYV's. For example, the National Symposium on increasing rice yields in Kharif (monsoon) season held at central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Cuttack in Feb.1978, had noted: "The time is now ripe to redefine the term HYV's as a high yielding variety for a particular environment, possessing suitable plant type characteristics for that condition. It may not be suitable for other environments...... A variety, irrespective of its plant type and stature, giving significantly higher yield over the local or regional average yield under farmers* conditions may be defined as a HYV".
Another undesirable aspect of the present notion of HYV's is that it takes the yield alone into account. There are a large number of other characteristics of the rice that are equally important to its growers and consumers, such as ability to withstand drought and flood conditions, resistance to insects and pests, water, fertilizers and other requirements, time for maturity, height of the crop, size of the grains, color, taste and aroma, time for cooking, ability for storing and preserving nutritional value etc. Concentrating on yield alone has very adversely affected not only the quantity, but also the quality of rices available to us today. Here again, Dr.Richharia states that the facts are known to the rice experts. For example, the Directorate of Rice Development, Government of India, issued a paper in 1972 entitled "Need for a national Policy on Rice" wherein it was stated: "The new varieties of rice should be as good as the older ones in local adaptability and other characteristics but not inferior in any characteristics. It is our experience that when we try to recommend a variety which is a compromise between high yield and other characteristics in which the local (older) varieties are superior, then we run into trouble. We should not overemphasize yield, but should insist upon a minimum level of excellence in respect of all other characteristics including aroma and cooking quality, as rice is the only cereal which is directly consumed without much change in the form of its grain". This realization, however, has found little reflection in the practices of the Agricultural agencies of the Governments, The present action plan is based on such scientifically accepted views.
(3) Choice of rice varieties - clonal propagation and hybrid clones: Rice growers in general prefer to cultivate their own indigenous rice varieties. If the improved' seeds of their own varieties developed by simple selection methods (to be done by the field workers or even the nearby local research centers) are offered to them, under their original names, they will gladly accept them and obtain at least 20 to 30 percent higher production, (A large number, about 1500 of such improved selections are already available for MP under the Bd series). These selections will be distributed from the centers in small quantities and farmers will be told how to multiply them rapidly by the clonal propagation method,* (a method which the rice growers themselves in a way had begun" to practice, traditionally, in some places) which will be demonstrated to them at the centers. This programme is based on a demonstration Once held on a state-wide scale, in Orisa, in 1964, by the state Agriculture Department to spread a fine-grained, non-lodging rice variety, CR1014, for low lands, which is still popular in that state and elsewhere. It will also be demonstrated that, for any rice variety, the healthier seeds, obtained by clonal propagation for a full crop of rice to follow, give nearly 20 per cent higher production. This technology may also be introduced in the seed multiplication programmes of rice.
(4) Agronomic Practices: "There is little that we can teach the Indian (or South East Asian) farmer by way of rice agronomy". According to Dr.Richharia the new plan of action will retain the commonly available agronomic practices, emphasis being on the use of organic manures such as compost, green manure, neem and oil cakes etc. (As mentioned earlier, this will require building up and safeguarding of local resources like forests, water sources etc). The use of nitrogenous fertilizers at lower doses of about 20 kg/ hectare has been found to give higher yields in indigenous types with higher return of grain per Kg of nitrogen applied in general. Economic use of fertilizers is also thus assured. Wherever the growers are responsive, this will be practiced. The latest design of bullock-drawn and hand-drawn machines including hand transplanters may be used.
(5) Dissemination of the new practices and the role of women: Holding of demonstrations and dissemination of the new technology through various mays media and conducting training programmes among farm women who do the major field work in rice, will be undertaken. Women will prove to be the most important link in introducing this new technology into field practice. "My experience at the Adaptive Rice Research Centre, Baronda (Near Kaipiir, MP) has demonstrated that the women workers absorb the new methods and ideas very quickly. Here I had especially [promoted some women workers as supervisors for managing the germplasm of over 17;,000 rice varieties, in the field and the practice of clonal propagation. This special faculty of the farming women folk in rice cultivation must receive full recognition and will be fully utilized at the proposed farmers' adaptive research centers".
(6) Rice as a Catch Crop: Rice can be introduced as a catch crop in wheat fields which lie fallow during the monsoon season. Dr.Richharia proposes that this can be first demonstrated by setting up an adaptive rice centre in the Maiwa region of MP. He states that enough knowledge and material already exists on this subject.
(7) India can help other rice - growing nations: The demand for Indian rice germplasm is increasing in Africa and South-East-Asia. It is known that some rice varieties of India have been proving very useful in breeding programs in raising the yield potential of rice of temperate regions in S.E. Asia, to improve the Japonica varieties. For example, the yield potentials of rice-in Korea have been increased through such a programme in recent years. Through the farmers' adaptive rice centers, the germplasm of India can be well preserved in their natural habitat and supplied directly to countries in need of them.
Dr.Richharia's document contains details on other aspects of plan implementation like financial, managerial - administrative etc. He has also included a list of titles of records in support of the richness of the existing useful rices for regions of MP with prospects of extension to other states also. Concerning the question as to whether the cultivators will absorb and follow these methods which apparently seem quite complex, Dr.Richharia has this to say: "During our extensive survey of the rice regions of India, we observed that the rice farmers follow even more complicated systems to keep their rice culture vigorous and have maintained their thousands of rice varieties from time immemorial. What we consider new already exists in isolation, especially with the tribal’s",
"The strategy drawn up in 1974 for increasing India's rice production was ignored and as a consequence a valuable period of about two decades has already been lost", observes Dr.Richharia. He hopes that this does not happen to the plan being proposed now. He proposes that steps be initiated immediately, to start with, in MP where there already exist 19,000 well understood rice cultivars along with their 1,500 improved versions, which constitute a resource of immense value waiting to be used. This germplasm collection embraces very valuable rice varieties. For example the clustered and poly-embryonic varieties; early maturing and scented types with high yield potential and varieties showing high protein content etc. Some of them show excellent combining ability for exhibiting high hybrid vigor. This material yields better under stress situations and shows resistance to disease and pests. Dr.Richharia states "The assembled rice germplasm which combines world genetic variability is naturally the richest wealth for the entire - South-East-Asia. Whereas this has not received due attention even in its home state (MP), its significance has been recognized outside at the International Rice Research Institute in Philippines where it is being transferred, after the initiative taken by the World Bank. The World Bank offered Rs.4.5 crores with a major condition to close down the MP Rice Research Institute where this work was being conducted and the material to be passed on to IRRI at a later stage. The latest position is that attempts are being made to see that this indigenous germplasm vanishes, with the least possible delay. This is being done by collecting the deeds of indigenous rice varieties from the growers in exchange of seeds of dwarf and semi-dwarf HYV's. 'This is against the recommendations of top Indian rice* scientists. This is a serious lapse. This specific plan of action aims at preventing further deterioration in productivity and production of rice in India, taking into consideration all these facts".
Dr.Richharia believes that India can easily become the leading rice power in the world and can feed millions in Asia and elsewhere -"provided (i) we apply our originality to take advantage of nature's gifts, (ii) allow gifted rice researchers absolute freedom of thought and action to go ahead with rice genetic engineering, and (iii) do not interfere with farmers' choice of their own varieties ". He considers [this to be of great strategic significance, since it has been recognized that "He who controls the supply of rice will control the destiny of the entire Asiatic belt".
YIELD POTENTIALS OF INDIGENOUS RICE VARIETIES OF INDIA
|S. No.||States||Productivity potential |
(Kg/Ha) prior to
1964-65 or 1960
|Actual Productivity |
1980 - 81
|1.||Assam||1840 - 4140||1109|
|2.||Andhra Pradesh||1680 - 4820||1978|
|3.||Bihar||2060 - 2300||997|
|4.||Hyderabad||2240 - 2370||-|
|5.||Madhya Pradesh||1390 - 2860||834|
|6.||Madras (Tamil Nadu)||2020 - 5600||1882|
|7.||Orissa||1120 - 4490||1031|
|8.||Travancoore - Cochin||2240 - 3140||-|
|9.||Uttar Pradesh||2240 - 3370||1049|
|10.||West Bengal||2240 - 4140||1442|
|11.||Gujarat (Bombay)||1400 - 3500||1166|
|13.||Haryana (Old Punjab)||2240 - 3030||2602|
POTENTIALS OF SOME HIGH YIELDING VARIETIES OF INDIAN
RICES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MP
|S. No||Original Rice |
|Paddy Yield |
|6.||Shri Kamal||Bd.140||3800||Short fine||Medium|
|8.||Beni Kath||Bd.452||4080||Short fine||Medium|
|9.||Tedhi Banko||Bd.207||6290||Long fine||Late|
|13.||Tedhi Bariko||Bd.207||6250||Long fine||Late|
|14.||Kariya Ghini||Bd.366||5550||Medium fine||Late|
* See 'Green Revolution: A Historical perspective by J.K.Bajaj in PPST Bulletin Vol.2, No.2, (November 1982) pp. 87 - 113.
* "Strategy on Rice Production front .in Madhya Pradesh", IADP Press, Raipur, 1974.
* Further information on this subject is available with Dr.Richharia,