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Wainu Chara : An indigenous rice breed :: No negative impact of climate change

 Source: The Sangai Express / Laishram Shamungou

Imphal, August 27 2019: Even though the climate is rapidly changing, with unpredictable heat, rainfall and drought etc bringing misery and hardship to all, Wainu Chara, a type of indigenous rice, has been growing and maturing without any visible negative impact. Wainu Chara is a type of wild rice, similar to Taothabi, and which is mostly found in the low lying areas surrounding Loktak Lake and on the phums. In the past, people even relied on this particular rice when there was drought or scarcity of food. This year, the lack of adequate rainfall has brought miseries to farmers of the State as many fields are unable to sustain any crops.

Wainu Chara : An indigenous rice breed :: No negative impact of climate change

Wainu Chara : An indigenous rice breed :: No negative impact of climate change

However, Wainu Chara is thriving abundantly in various locations of Keibul Lamjao National Park as well as atop the Phumdis. Speaking to The Sangai Express, one Oinam Nodiyachand (58) of Keibul Sargam said that the particular rice variety has a small stalk, is short and tasty. After the rice ripens, it cannot be harvested using the normally used techniques and instead it has to be harvested using boats or equipment to catch the rice grains (which have the tendency to fall easily after the plant reaches maturity), he said, adding that in the past Wainu Chara used to be consumed when there was scarcity of other rice varieties and during famines. Pointing out that the rice variety was not particularly favoured by farmers due to its low yield, Nodiyachand said that nowadays, as the Government is supplying rice to the people, Wainu Chara is not eaten by the people and the plant is growing abundantly in the wild. Another local of the village, Oinam Iboyaima (52) said that the particularly rice variety can survive in even clear water and after the grains fall upon reaching maturity, they will always produce more rice plants the next year. On the other hand, Manipur University Life Science Professor P Kumar explained that Wainu Chara is also grown in China and Taiwan and this particular wild rice is often regarded as the ancestor of the currently available rice varieties. The family of Wainu Chara growing in other areas, particularly the North East region, originated from Loktak, he claimed. Pointing out that other type of rice, namely Kambong, Sangsangba and Mursi, are also found in and around Loktak area, Prof Kumar said that Wainu Chara has been existing since time immemorial without any change in its appearance and characteristics. If gene germ plasm of such a climate resilient rice variety is stored, it will be very beneficial to all, he added. ICAR Imphal Joint Director Dr I Meghachandra said that Wainu Chara has a particular gene which helps in repelling pests and this is being investigated by the International Rice Institute, Philippines.
Wainu Chara possess a high level of seed dormancy (ability to survive underground for 2 to 3 years) which helps it in surviving many harsh climatic conditions, he added. On the other hand, another scientist of ICAR, Ningombam Arti said that many of the rice variety eaten today originated from Wainu Chara and this particular rice has survived since many millennia and it is still surviving the current climatic change quite easily. Such qualities of Wainu Chara can help in producing other varieties of rice which are resilient to climatic changes, the scientist added. Dr Arti further explained that Wainu Chara is the ancestor of most of the commercial rice available in South East Asia region adding that the Wainu Chara growing at Keibul Lamjao can also be used to attract more tourists. On the other hand, Directorate of Environment and Climate Change Deputy Director Dr T Brajakumar opined that it is really important to conserve and document disease and climate resilient plants in today'stime.