Biodiversity: Forgotten rice varieties

Table of contents:

Biodiversity: Forgotten rice varieties
Biodiversity: Forgotten rice varieties

Forgotten Grains

Some are particularly nutritious, others can withstand floods, droughts or other catastrophes: many old rice varieties are extremely interesting - and almost forgotten. Maintaining and reintroducing them poses challenges for researchers.

On a hot summer's day in 1991, I spent hours studying the biodiversity of "sacred groves" in the south of the Indian state of West Bengal. To rest, I went to the hut of a young man from the Santal tribe, Raghu Murmu. In the shade of a huge mango tree, I enjoyed cold water and sweets made from rice. I saw his pregnant wife drinking a reddish liquid. This is starch that is released when Bhutmuri rice is cooked, Raghu explained."For women who suffer from anemia during pregnancy and after childbirth, this supports blood formation," he explained to me. Presumably because of its red-brown colored lemma, this variety bears the name ghost head rice.

As I later found out, Bhutmuri is one of several native rice varieties in South Asia that are rich in iron and contain certain B vitamins. Paramai-sal rice, on the other hand, is home to large amounts of antioxidants, micronutrients and soluble starch, which can be rapidly converted into energy. At the time, such unusual varieties of rice, with their impressive names and folk medicinal uses, were new to me. Back in Kolkata, I conducted a literature review on the genetic diversity of Indian rice and realized that my encounter with Raghu had been a stroke of luck. Farmers like him who grow ancient rice varieties and appreciate their value are very rare - and the rice varieties are endangered…

Popular topic