Promoting Traditional Rice Varieties for Sustainable Agriculture in India

India’s rice farmers have been facing challenges due to erratic rainfall, water diversion for industry, and the use of hybrid rice varieties that require chemical additives damaging the soil. However, there is now a growing interest in traditional rice varieties like red rice, which are hardy, grow well without fertilizers, and have nutritional benefits. Red rice also fetches a good price in the retail market, making it attractive for farmers. The government of Himachal Pradesh aims to expand the production of red rice, while organizations like the Socio-Environmental Welfare Society promote the conservation and restoration of biodiversity through indigenous rice seed varieties. These varieties have adapted to local ecologies, can resist droughts and floods, and may play a vital role in sustainable agriculture in drought-prone regions. The overreliance on hybrid seeds has led to soil degradation and reduced attention to low-yielding traditional seeds. Farmers are now encouraged to explore various indigenous rice varieties and adopt methods that require less water, like the alternate wetting and drying technique. However, there is a need for proper campaigns, training, and incentives to support farmers in making the shift towards more sustainable production. One farmer’s experience in reducing the number of rice seeds planted and spacing them appropriately has doubled her rice production without significant changes in technique.