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    • Recently, Rahibai Popere popularly known as Seedmother, from Maharashtra was awarded Padma Shri Award for recognition of her work to save hundreds of landraces (wild varieties of commonly grown crops) at the village level.

    What are Landraces? 

    • They 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. 
    • Example 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.
    • Importance:
      • Naturally occurring landraces have a large pool of still untapped genetic material, which can provide solutions
        • Genetic diversity is nature’s survival mechanism. 
        • The wider the gene pool, the more the chance of developing a trait that can help in surviving extreme climate events.
      •  A common misconception was that landraces have lower yields than hybrids. 
        • With proper agricultural practices, landraces can give better yield with lower input costs.
    • Initiatives: Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF)has initiated a community-led programme to preserve landraces Since 2008. 
      • BAIF’s programme involves the community in saving this rich biodiversity in their own backyard.

    Way forward

    • At present, landraces survive in only a few rural and tribal pockets.
    • Traditional knowledge needs to be grown, or how seeds are to be saved.
    • There is much remains to be understood about the germplasms of the landraces.
      • Research is in the early stages. 
    • It is necessary to understand how these landraces can contribute to climate-resilient agriculture; nutritional profiling too can hold the key to fighting deficiencies, as many landraces are richer in nutrients than commercially grown variants.

    Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF)

    • This concept was inaugurated by Dr Zakir Hussain, then the President of India on August 24, 1967.
    • It is an apolitical, secular and professionally managed organisation.
    • It is an organization governed by Gandhian values and a blend of development research, capacity building and improved quality of life.
    • Mission: To create opportunities for gainful self-employment for the rural families, especially disadvantaged sections, ensuring sustainable livelihood, enriched environment, improved quality of life and good human values.

    What are Hybrid Crops?

    • A hybrid crop is a result of two different varieties of plants that are cross-pollinated to create an off-spring or hybrid that contains the best traits of each of the parents.
    • In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve the desired combination of characteristics, such as bigger size or better disease resistance. 
    • Benefits 
      • In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favourable traits:
        • Dependability, less required care, early maturity, higher yield, improved flavour, specific plant size, and/or better disease resistance. 
    • 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 human interference in crop selection, that ability is now lost in most commercial crops.

    Source: IE