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Five Indigenous Crops That Are Disappearing From Indian Farm

Many indigenous, high-nutrition crop varieties are vanishing across India for a number of causes, ranging from falling demand to production difficulties.

Chintu Das
Moth Beans
Moth Beans

Agro-biodiversity suffers significantly when crops disappear. Several indigenous crops are disappearing in India's south, central, east, and north-east regions. Some are being phased out of community usage due to monoculture cultivation's dominance, while others are being phased out due to hybrid varieties' popularity. Also to blame is the government's lack of support for indigenous types. 

When particular crop types become extinct, so does the mini-ecosystem of insects, animals, birds, and plants that they support. 

Five crops that are on the verge of extinction 

Karhani Rice 

Location: Gaurela-Pendra-Marwahi district of Chhattisgarh 

Reasons for the fall include the government's promotion of hybrid paddy, low yields, and the lack of a minimum support price (MSP). 

The Gonds cultivated this black rice type, which has a blackish husk and pink rice. For many years, the adivasis have been nurturing it. It grows on upland plots and thrives even in places with little rainfall. It is extremely nutritious, but it is becoming increasingly uncommon as the government is pushing hybrid paddy types. The yield is 1-1.5 quintals per acre, which is lower than paddy and also less expensive. When seeded in the monsoon, it matures in two months. Most farmers choose to plant crops that earn the government's minimum support price. 

Moth Bean 

Location: Arid and semi-arid areas, particularly in Karnataka's central and northern regions. Consumers moving to toor dal, shifting rainfall patterns, and a change from multi-cropping to mono-cropping are all contributing to the drop. 

Moth bean, also known as matki dal, has been displaced in fields and on menus by toor or arhar dal, which has become a staple despite its higher cost. The nutritious bean has been overlooked by even agriculture institutions. The government has been pushing toor and moong to the disadvantage of matki. Because of BT cotton, maize, and sunflower, moth bean farming is declining in Karnataka. Moth beans were cooked in dals or sprouted and used in recipes like misal from Maharashtra. 

Meher Dhan 

Location: Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. 

Reasons for decrease include a lack of a market and merchants' rejection of this black rice type. Farmers attempted to revive this red rice with a black husk in 2016, as meher dhan is a dryland paddy type that requires less water. Farmers attempted to sell it two years ago, but traders refused to buy it because it was black. It is an early cultivar that is available in October after being seeded in June-July. There is little incentive to expand a market if there isn't one. Farmers returned to paddy last year and increased their output and earnings. 

Kangu, Gathia and Janaha 

Location: Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, encompassing the districts of Rayagada and Kalahandi 

Lack of seeds, monoculture, and commercial farming are all factors contributing to the decrease. 

Odisha's Dongria Kondhs have long grown a variety of indigenous crops such as janaha (sorghum), gathia (pearl millet), and kangu (foxtail millet). Many of the Dongria Kondh adivasis' favorite crops are becoming extinct. Pineapple, ginger, turmeric, and eucalyptus monoculture plantations for economic interests are driving these crops to extinction. These crops and tribals have a synergistic connection. When they lose a crop, they also lose a piece of their culture. The Dongria Kondhs, for example, rejoice when finger millet is harvested. The event is not held without the crop. 

Khaw Pnah Saw  

Location: The Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi district in Meghalaya 

Reasons for decrease include a preference for white, non-sticky rice and labor-intensive farming. 

The Bhoi, Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo tribes of Meghalaya produce this red sticky rice, or Oryza sativa glutinosa, on a small scale, and it is currently only offered at weddings, funerals, and festivities. People nowadays choose softer, less sticky types for everyday meals. Growing this paddy is similarly labor demanding, and the market demand is low. To ensure the crop's survival, the community saves the seeds. Folk rice varieties are beneficial to the environment because they adapt well to local conditions, are high in micronutrients, and help to diversify agricultural yields. 

Also check out 3 Important Indigenous Cultivation Methods in India. 

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