“Odisha produces aromatic rice similar to the famous Basmati rice and have qualities like pleasant fragrance with small and round grains, white colour and softness without much elongation on cooking. Unfortunately due to lack of systematic effort for the collection, evaluation and genetic improvement of these much-valued short grained scented rices of the state, these varieties are slowly started disappearing,” said Das, who collected seeds of these varieties from across the state and started a project of cultivating and collecting seeds for farmers in a small patch of land.
These indigenous scented rices mainly Kalajeera, Neelabati, Krushnabhog, Govindabhog, Padmakeshari, Tulasiphoola are predominant in coastal belts, while a few number of traditional scented varieties like Pimpudibasa, Jubaraj, Karpurakranti, Badsabhog, Kalikati, Laxmibilas and Makarakanda are common in the plateau regions of the state.
“The scented rice varieties can give more yield and more profit to the farmers but due to poor marketing facilities there is distress sale of rice. Many of these varieties like Kalajeera can be grown in almost all the 30 districts of Odisha. Similarly Jubaraj variety is excellent traditional rice with hard gel consistency and highest kernel growth, Kalabati is very rich in anti-oxydant and can reduce stress. If the government supports to set up Aroma Village and create seed banks for farmers then it would help the agrarian economy in a great way,” Das pointed out.
Traditionally the short grain aromatic rices are grown with farm yard manure (FYM) and hardly any fertilizer is used due to their tall height, weak straw and lodging habit. “Considering the lower response of nitrogen it is suggested to grow these indigenous aromatic rices organically which would fetch more price with less cost and thus enhance the profit margins of small and marginal farmers,” he pointed out.
Agriculture scientist S R Das, who has developed 52 mega rice varieties, and varieties developed by him are cultivated in 70 per cent of rice fields of Odisha while Pratikshya, one of his popular high yield rice variety is widely cultivated by farmers in West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.
Das, who retired as professor in plant breeding and genetics from OUAT in 2011, is presently working as an honorary professor in the university. He also worked as visiting research fellow in International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines.