In the golden jubilee year of the Green Revolution, the farmers of the basmati growing areas of Punjab, Haryana and parts of Western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have something to cheer about, as a new high yielding basmati variety-PUSA 1509-will be available to them for sowing in the upcoming paddy/basmati growing season.
The variety developed by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) has been classified in the basmati category by the relevant authorities. It was tested in the fields of Haryana and Punjab last year and after clearing the required parameters its seed is now ready for distribution among the basmati growers of the northern states.
Like the PUSA 1121 variety that revolutionised basmati cultivation in the country, this new variety will add a new dimension to this revolution. PUSA 1121, also a high yielding variety, was also developed by IARI.
"PUSA 1509 will add a new chapter to basmati cultivation in the country," claimed its developer K Prabhu while talking to HT here on Friday.
Prabhu, along with VK Singh, was here to attend a kisan mela in which Prof MS Swaminathan, one of the architects of the Green Revolution was the chief guest. Singh had developed the PUSA 1121 variety some years back. Both are IARI scientists.
The PUSA 1121 variety had become immensely popular among the farmers due to its high yield as compared to the traditional varieties like Basmati-386. The 1121 variety, despite not being as aromatic as Basmati-386, gained popularity due to its high yield. While the traditional varieties give a yield of around 8-9 quintals per acre, the yield of 1121 as recorded on the farms of Punjab touched 20 quintals per acre.
With the introduction of the 1121, a lot of farmers took to basmati cultivation in the northern states. The market rate of this variety was higher than the MSP (Minimum Support Price) offered by the government on paddy varieties.
In 2010, the rate of 1121 touched Rs. 3,000 per quintal, but in 2011 it dropped, hovering around Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 1,800, as the traders lobby joined hands to offer lower rates. However, last year, each quintal of the 1121 fetched up to Rs. 2,600 and at places even higher, as the farmers opted not to sell at low rates.
"PUSA 1509, is long grained like 1121, but it will give a higher yield, which will touch 23-24 quintals per acre. As it has got many advantages over 1121," Prabhu said, while pointing out that it takes around 3 years for a new variety to gain total acceptance among the farming community.
The advantages, Prabhu explained was that being a short duration variety, it will require lesser water than 1121. Its nurseries can be planted in the third week of June and transplantation takes place in the third week of July and it is ready for harvesting in October.
"It will save groundwater, as the monsoons will arrive when its sowing takes place, hence less water will be pumped out of the ground. Then due to its early maturity, it will require at least six irrigations less than 1121," Prabhu added.
He also went on to explain that the height of the 1509 plant was less than 1121. Hence it will not easily fall due to strong winds or excess water.
"A farmer can get two additional crops if he sows 1509. Due to its late sowing, a farmer can get a crop of pulses or green fodder before planting this variety in the same field. Then early harvesting will leave the field open for sowing of certain mustard varieties and thereafter on the same piece of land, late variety of wheat can be sown," the IARI scientist added.
Before launching 1509, Prabhu has made sure that the government declares it as a basmati variety as the 1121 variety faced a lot of problems before its basmati qualities were recognised. As of now, 1121 is exported to over 100 countries and it has also hit the global market of Jasmine, the famed long grained rice variety of Thailand.
VK Singh explained that it took a lot of hardwork to get the basmati tag for 1121 and it was only after this recognition was accorded that it became popular. However Prabhu has already got the green signal from the All India Rice Exporters Association and the concerned union ministries have also put their stamps on 1509 and the necessary notification on according it the basmati status has been issued.