For Indians, agriculture is not a vocation but a way of life. It has always been an integral part of Indian culture and tradition since the Vedic age. Even today, about 70% of the population is engaged in agricultural activities, making a significant contribution to the GDP.
Why should India return to native seeds?
After the economic reforms in the 90s and the advent of the Green Revolution, our agricultural practices have marked a massive shift from the traditional ones. Farmers began to prefer hybrids/ HYV (High Yield Varieties) over native seeds, started using fertilisers and pesticides, and integrated modern farming techniques.
But, gradually, farmers recognised that these HYV were highly sensitive to minor climatic disturbances. Studies also suggested that these seeds need efficient management of water, chemical fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides in order to provide higher yields.
Also, the overuse of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has degraded soil fertility and resulted in biodiversity loss. The environmental pollution caused by this has posed severe threats to human health as well. Thus, it is high time that we reconsider using HYVs and move on to native seed varieties and traditional practices.
Benefits of Native Seed Varieties
Native seeds are seed varieties that grew naturally or were cultivated in a particular place over generations. These can thrive in native conditions without the help of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. These are comparatively manageable and make agriculture more sustainable.
Moreover, native Seeds also exhibits:
- Climate and Pest Resilience
As most native seeds are naturally occurring, they are well adapted to the climatic conditions of the region.
- These can inherently withstand environmental conditions such as irregular rains and drought as they get used to these over time.
- They consume less water, thus maintaining groundwater and minimising the cost of irrigation.
- They require less management as well because they are naturally resistant to pests and diseases.
Native seeds maintain their strength of germination for decades and can be harvested, dried, and stored. While hybrid seeds use cross-pollination of two parent seeds and cannot be replanted as they lose vigour, native seeds carry all the characteristics of their predecessors and can be replanted in the coming season with ease.
Genetic diversity influences the viability of plants and their ability to withstand changing climate and environmental conditions. Native seeds are more genetically diverse than modern seeds and have a better capacity to survive harsh situations. They easily modify themselves to suit the environment they live in and also help in improving the neighbouring plant varieties as they pollinate naturally.
Native seeds are valued not only because of their cost-effectiveness and benefits to the environment but also due to their cultural and historical significance. For farmers, native seeds personify the glory and pride of their ancestral heritage. These seeds bring with them memories of generations and the practices linked with them as well.
Preserve Native Crop Variety
As resources around us are getting used up, integration of traditional as well as scientific approaches is of utmost importance for the development of agriculture in India. Thus we must preserve, protect, and popularise the use of native seeds that are resilient, productive and interconnected with our culture and history. Let us take a step to make agriculture in India more sustainable.
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