The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has enlisted veteran farmer Upendra Rabha of Goalpara, recognized for popularizing the black rice variety in lower Assam, to promote premium varieties of black rice. This rice variety imported to Assam from Manipur and Odisha has the potential to provide Assamese farmers with international market access and has given tribal farmers in Assam’s Goalpara area fresh hope.
The black rice varieties, which are ravaged by elephants every year, were planted as part of the World Bank-supported Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART), which is being executed by the state agriculture department. This project attempts to assist farmers by providing high-profit returns even with lower yields.
The variety, known as Upendra Rice I, has already been distributed in the markets of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. Rabha acquired a one-kilogram black rice seed sample from a Rajasthan agricultural fair a few years ago from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Goalpara (KVK), which is a district-level agricultural extension center established by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). KVK associated universities provide various sorts of farm support to the agricultural sector and the organization itself plays an important role in demonstrating location-specific agricultural innovations through on-farm testing.
Out of the 1 kg sample, only one seed grew. Despite this, he did not give up. According to Rabha, the famed Upendra Rice I variety emerged from this single seed and has now spread to numerous regions around Assam. He said this year that Upendra Rice II and III, which evolved from Upendra Rice I, had been delivered to local farmers.
While the new varieties originated in Manipur, the other two black rice types, Kalamalifula and Kalavati, originated in Odisha. IRRI, in conjunction with the Assam government, has begun its production by introducing new black rice varieties from other Indian states under the World Bank-funded APART Project.
According to Jyoti Bikash Nath, an IRRI communication expert, the goal is to connect farmers with buyers for greater returns and make excellent quality seeds available for future usage. The Goalpara experiment may go a long way toward organizing black rice production from its current disorganized status.
Among the many rice types on the market, black rice is popular in many sections of the country. The land and climatic circumstances fit this form of rice farming, and it may be farmed economically, Nath had added.
With the present demand for black rice increasing due to its high nutritional content and health advantages, IRRI hopes to expand its distribution. The seeds were planted on a total of 17.6 bighas of land, with Manipuri black rice covering 10 bighas, Kalavati covering 3.6 bighas, and Kalamalifula covering 4.0 bighas.
According to Kanwar Singh, resident coordinator and senior associate scientist-II at IRRI, the crop cafeteria of premium quality rice varieties, as well as indigenous rice varieties, has been introduced for comparative analysis and selection, to provide farmers with the opportunity to select the best performing varieties of their preference for their fields.