Assam tribe's rice varieties win recognition

By Sushanta Talukdar

Guwahati, June 19 : Cooked Miaotong rice remains fresh for at least three days

Two traditional rice varieties produced by the Singphos — Miaotong and Khawlung, used in making topola bhaat, a delicacy of the tribe and popular with tourists — are set to earn the status of being the first registered farmers' variety from Assam under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority regime.

Pranab Talukdar, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics of the Assam Agricultural University told The Hindu that the biodiversity management committee of the Singpho community had authorised the university to register Miaotong and Khawlung as the first registered farmers' variety from Assam.

“Once registered, the Singpho community will enjoy an exclusive right for commercial production of these varieties and also a share of the benefit, if anyone outside the community, with its consent, cultivates tem on a commercial scale,” said Dr. Talukdar.

The specialty of Miaotong is that cooked rice remains fresh for at least three days. Miaotong-soaked water is also used as shampoo, according to community elders.

Topola bhaat, aromatic rice cooked in Koupat (broad leaf of a plant variety), is a special Singpho delicacy prepared from purely organic and aromatic glutinous type traditional fine rice varieties like Miaotong and Khawlung.

Akashi Sarma, Principal Scientist, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, and her student Preeti Rekha Talukdar collected nine accessions of Singpho landraces to study the genetic parameters.

The study revealed that traditional Singpho rice landraces Khawlung, Miaotong, Rongapikhi (lalpikihi) and Kulapikhi could be considered parents in a hybridisation programme with quality grain and selection procedures to exploit both additive and non-additive genes.