Padma Shri award was given to Rahibai Popere, popularly known as Seedmother, from Akole taluka of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.
- She was awarded for recognition of her work that has helped save hundreds of landraces (wild varieties of commonly grown crops) at the village level.
- Presently, farmers mainly grow hybrid crops.
- About: A hybrid crop is a result of two different varieties of plant being cross-pollinated to create an off-spring or hybrid that contains the best traits of each of the parents.
- With hybrid rice and wheat, for example, selective breeding over a period of time has allowed scientists to develop varieties that have higher yield or other desirable traits.
- Over the years, farmers have adopted these varieties.
- Related Issues: Crop improvement through selection and breeding over several decades has narrowed the genetic base of most crops.
- Biodiversity allows a natural mechanism for crops to develop traits to face challenging situations.
- However, given the large-scale huan inmterference in crop selection, that ability is now lost in most commercial crops.
- About: Landraces refer to naturally occurring variants of commonly cultivated crops.
- These are as opposed to commercially grown crops, which are developed by selective breeding (hybrids) or through genetic engineering to express a certain trait over others.
- Utility of Landraces: Amid the threat of climate change, a challenge before scientists and policymakers is to develop varieties that can withstand both abiotic and biotic stresses.
- Rich Genetic Pool: Naturally occurring landraces have a large pool of still untapped genetic material, which can provide solutions.
- The wider the gene pool, the more the chance of developing a trait that can help in surviving extreme climate events.
- Higher Yields With Proper Input: There is a common misconception that landraces have lower yields than hybrids. However, with proper agricultural practices, landraces can give better yield with lower input costs.
- High Nutrition Profile: Many landraces are richer in nutrients than commercially grown variants.
- Examples of Landraces: Kalbhat is a unique landrace of scented rice.
- Over the years, this variant had almost vanished from cultivators’ fields as hybrid variants became popular.
- It has better climate resilience than popularly grown rice and can withstand floods or drought better.