One more story from Indian Express, on 06 December: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/247445.html. Anupam Pal, Agriculture Development Officer at Agriculture Training Centre (ATC) in Phulia, West Bengal, used a small plot of land next the ATC, to plant 70 varities of indigenous and obsolete varieties of rice.
Only four decades ago 5800 varities of rice were cultivated in West Bengal. Today, only 516 varieties exist. All this has happened because of the government sponsored High-Yielding Varities (HYV) promotion programmes, which were supposed to produce more yield per acre.
This initiative coincides with several such initiatives of seed-protection, among which one of the most popular in India (atleast that I know of) being that of by Navdanya.
An excerpt from the article:
His effort has provided exceptional results, as the yield is expected to quash popular misconceptions about the productivity of the indigenous varieties compared to the HYVs.
Under the same soil conditions, local varieties like Bahurupi fared better than their HYV counterparts like Swarna Kamal and Minikit in terms of grain yield. So a full bloom Khejurchari rice plant on the ATC farm had 75 tillers or branches. In fact, none of the rice varieties had less than 25 tillers which is comparable with the HYVs.
The number of grains borne by a mature Bahurupi, a local variety, is 450, which easily scores over popular HYVs. More importantly, unlike the HYVs, the local varieties yield hay, which is used for cattle feed and in mushroom farms. So local varieties make for better economic sense.
“Even if the HYVs give a yield of 720 kg in one bigha plot and the local varieties yield around 480 kg per bigha, the latter leads to higher profit margins. This is because the cost of inputs—pesticides and fertilisers—for the HYVs is significantly higher than for the local varieties,” said Bahadur Chetri, one of the two farmers roped in for the project.
“It is sad that the farmers have turned their backs on these varieties which can compete with the HYVs. Also there isn’t any effort to explore the export potential of fragrant rice varieties,” said Pal.
Perhaps his experiment will mark the beginning of the return to local varieties.