Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ever heard of kamand? Ask granny


SKUAST Study Paints Grim Picture Of Vanishing Indigenous Plant Varieties In Valley
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, Jan 24: Sixty years back 300 varieties of Rice were native to Kashmir, but what we have today is a few high-yielding foreign varieties. How many of us have heard the name of aromatic rice variety kamad, not to speak of eating it? Your grandmas or grandpas would boast of having tasted it in the heydays of their lives. Such has been the fate of Kashmir Valley’s rich biodiversity, reveals a study by a team of scientists of Sheri Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences of Technology.
The SKUAST team has painted a grim picture of rapidly vanishing indigenous varieties and species of plants, saying if they are not preserved it would be hard to find them in the coming times.
The study conducted to collect information about plants of agricultural and horticultural significance has found a sharp decline in the production of indigenous varieties of rice, vegetables, trees, pulses, medicinal and ornamental plants. 
“Some 60 years ago there were 300 varieties of rice in Kashmir. We have replaced them for high yield, and at the same time we have failed to preserve agricultural land. It has serious consequences,” says Prof. N.A Zeerak, Head Division of Plan Breeding SKUAST-K.
The indigenous varieties like Bat Baber, Hapat, Noor Meer, Gulla Bara are not being grown presently. Aromatic varieties of rice, like kamad, are extinct now. The experts said that in Western countries the indigenous varieties were being preserved in the Gene Banks.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir had a fairly rich diversity of plant life, and people used to depend on this for their daily needs of food, medicine, fuel, fibre. Plants were also an integral part of the social fabric of the valley. Prof Zeerak says that “seems to be history now.”
He said the graveyards in Kashmir that used to have dense growth of Iris (Mazarmund in Kashmiri) look barren now. The roots of the plant are considered to be rodent and mongoose repellent. 
The research has revealed that there has been decline in production of the Ambri apple as well. The Ambri has been replaced by the delicious and other varieties. The Kashmiri poplar has been replaced by Russian poplars, which grows rapidly, and the medicinal plants like Microtome (Kahzban), Colchicium (verikium), Saroria (khut) are also on the decline.
Though the research has not shown the extent of damage and there is no statistical data available about the agricultural land, it reveals that there has been decline in the saffron production due to decrease in land holding. 
It says cutting of almond and willow trees is rampant. “In fact most of the bakers now use almond trees,” the research says, adding that there are no efforts to plant tress where the plant is felled, and also no efforts are made to preserve the old varieties.
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