Folk rice: Researchers spot a dozen Indian paddy varieties that can boost nourishment

What is the news? 

As per the recent study, 12 folk varieties of Indian rice can supplement the nutritional demand of important fatty acids in undernourished mothers. 

These can further supplement the arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in neonates through breast-feeding. DHA and ARA are fatty acids found in breast milk, as well as in some foods, like fish and eggs. 

The study looked at the nutritionally important fatty acids (FA) in 94 indigenous rice landraces / varieties of India, which are at the risk of disappearing. They are cultivated by a few marginal farmers.

What are the advantages of the folk rice varieties? 

Firstly, these rice varieties are cost-effective and reliable than marketed formula foods. They can add essential FAs in the staple diet and provide for FA requirement in the normal brain development in infants. Fatty acids help in meeting daily nutrition.  

Secondly, seven rice varieties of North East India — Meghalaya lakang, Chingphourel, Manuikhamei, Kemenyakepeyu, Wainem, Thekrulha, and Koyajang — have the potential to resist leaf and neck blast disease in rice plants. 

Thirdly, in India, many folk varieties like Athikaraya, Dudh-sar, Kayame, Neelam samba, Srihati, Maharaji and Bhejri are known in folk medicine to enhance milk production in lactating women. Other traditional varieties like Kelas, DudheBolta and Bhutmoori are rich in iron and can be included in diet of mothers to treat anaemia. 

What is the present status of folk rice varieties? 

India was home to 200,000 varieties of rice. They are currently at the risk of disappearing as they are being cultivated by a few marginal farmers.

High-yield hybrids have pushed out indigenous rice varieties and many of these varieties, called landraces are nearing extinction in India.  For example, Bindli and Kalanamak rice varieties in Uttar Pradesh.

What is the way forward?

In situ conservation of these neglected and vanishing landraces of rice, rich in nutrients, is a cheaper option than high-yielding varieties (HYVs).

It helps address the problem of undernutrition in under five children in India.

Source: This post is based on the article “Folk rice: Researchers spot a dozen Indian paddy varieties that can boost nourishment” published in the Down to Earth on 15th September 2021.  

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