Rice varieties

In view of the failure of all ex situ rice seed banks to protect the erosion of rice genetic diversity, CIS established Vrihi (Sanskrit name of “rice”), the first non-governmental rice seed bank for farmers, in 1997. Coordinated by its founder Debal Deb, Vrihi Beej Binimoy Kendra is the largest folk rice seed bank in eastern India, established not only to promote cultivation of folk rice varieties, but also re-establish the vanishing culture of non-commercial seed exchange.

Click to Play Video Inerview: Vrihi’s Vision

Vandana Shiva Vrihi began its journey in 1997 as a partner of the nationwide folk crop conservation movement, headed by Dr. Vandana Shiva’s Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE). Dr. Shiva continues to inspire Vrihi’s work.
CIS gratefully acknowledges the funding support it received from RFSTE for Vrihi’s activities till March 2000. Since then, Vrihi has been running on its founder’s personal funding support and donations from friends, especially Dr. Paoloroberto Imperiali of Rome. His donation was instrumental in establishing a research farm, Basudha, where regular, in situ cultivation of all folk rice varieties began in 2001. Paoloroberto Imperiali

[View Slide about Vrihi here]

The search for the vanishing folk rice varieties began in 1995 in remote areas of western and northern districts of West Bengal, where tribal population size and the proportion of unirrigated farms are highest in the State. These marginal areas seemed to be the last bastion of the folk crop varieties, because (a) locally adapted farmers’ landraces perform much better than modern cultivars in marginal environmental conditions, [1] and (b) the tribal farmers are generally too poor to buy expensive agrochemicals and water for irrigation to grow modern rice varieties, and therefore, must rely on the folk varieties. Indeed, most of Vrihi’s accessions came from these ‘backward’ districts.

An increasing number of indigenous farmers from different districts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Uttarakhand visit Vrihi to collect seeds. In February 2009 Vrihi received the National Plant Genome Saviour Award from the Plant Variety Protection & Farmers’ Rights Authority, Government of India.  

The circle of Vrihi’s seed exchange membership has considerably expanded over the past 20 years: from a modest number of 21 in the early 1998 to 1680 by early 2015, covering 8 States of India. As of April 2017, more than 5600 farmers from 10 States have exchanged with Vrihi seeds of 410 rice varieties.  In two Blocks of Koraput district, Odisha, we distributed seeds of selected endangered folk varieties among the indigenous farmers, who have come forward in large numbers to grow these varieties on their own farms, in spite of no financial return.










The Vrihi Seed Exchange Network now consists of more than 6000 indigenous farmers who have directly or indirectly received rice seeds from Vrihi and continue to cultivate and exchange these seeds among them.

Why exchange?

It is well known that with the onset of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, “high yielding crop varieties has resulted in the replacement of numerous landraces possessing several important genes”[2]. With the rapid disappearance of folk varieties, farmers have perforce become entirely dependent on the commercial seed suppliers for their crop. Until the advent of the seeds market, thousands of farmer landraces had spread across wide areas through informal seed exchange among farmers. Seeds used to be a precious gift to relatives and friends. Because crop seeds were traditionally considered to be a commons that belonged to the community, there was no scope for its commercial appropriation.

Extensive field surveys in remote parts of the country in  search of heirloom crop varieties reveal that an astonishing  genetic diversity of rice (and other crops) still survives in  indigenous societies where seed exchange continues. Some  folk rice varieties were also conserved by indigenous  farmers due to their cultural value. Agricultural  modernization, involving external supply of seeds has  already obliterated much of our heirloom crop genetic  diversity as well as local food cultures. To halt further  erosion of the rice genetic diversity, customary seed  exchange systems need to be rejuvenated. This can be done only by establishing multiple seed exchange centres in the country.

Vrihi not only promotes seed exchange on its premises, but also motivates farmers to establish their own community seed banks.


As of February 2018, The seed stock of Vrihi is composed of 1320 rice land races collected from indigenous farmers of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines and Italy. Vrihi’s awareness campaign for folk crop seed saving has slowly overcome the initial intransigence of farmers. With an inchoate understanding that folk crop genetic diversity would ensure the country’s food security, many farmers have come forward to donate seeds, and pledged to save and exchange those seeds with friends, kins and neighbours. Vrihi’s collection has thus expandJugaled by accessions from interior villages of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. Rice samples from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Italy, donated by farmers and scientists abroad have enriched Vrihi’s stock. By the end of 2012, the number of folk rice varieties in Vrihi’s collection has exceeded 900.






Vrihi’s collection includes a number of unique rice varieties. An example is jugal, the double-grain rice variety. Another amazing variety is sateen, the triple-grain rice. Ramigali from Chhattisgarh has sterile lemmas elongated as wing-like appendages. Kharah from Odisha is another unique landrace with purple culms and leaves. There are numerous varieties that can withstand drought, flood and salinity, or have resistance to diverse pests and diseases. Hundreds of landraces with diverse pigmentation, culinary properties and valuable agronomic traits have been characterized, documented and published for the first time by Vrihi.

Seed Exchange Protocol

Any farmer can receive any indigenous rice variety, free of cost, from Vrihi seed bank at Panchal. The seed exchange centre is open for farmers every month from February through June. The office closes in the middle of June.

Vrihi assist farmers who intend to take rice seeds in choosing the rice varieties appropriate for his/her farm’s land type, and soil characteristics, and local climatic conditions. In case a farmer visits the seed bank in the first week of any month between February and June, and finds it closed before his arrival, he may leave his name and address on a slip of paper and return home. He may also mention the name of a variety he would intend to receive, or just the type of land (rain fed upland/ irrigated medium land/ deep lowland) where he would intend to grow the seeds. Vrihi volunteers will take bags of rice seeds appropriate for his farm.

Seed Exchange

In order to receive seeds from Vrihi the farmer must give, in exchange, seeds of at least one folk rice variety (about 1 kg), which would then be passed on to another farmer. In case the farmer does not have any folk variety seeds to exchange, (s)he must pay a ‘security deposit’ for obtaining a packet of 1 kg of seeds. A paper receipt is issued against this payment, which is refunded when the farmer returns 2 kg of that rice after harvest. This arrangement is to ensure cultivation and multiplication of the seeds.


Farmers exchanging seeds

On-Farm Conservation

All rice varieties are being cultivated on the Basudha research farm of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies. Every year, samples of all rice varieties are brought from Vrihi and grown in small plots at Basudha. ‘Core sample’ panicles from each plot are harvested and stored for the next season. In order to obviate chances of cross-pollination between varieties grown on neighbouring plots, an innovative method of transplanting varieties with asynchronous flowering dates is employed[3].

Rice field

Agronomic and morphological characteristics of each rice variety are assessed, following the International Plant Generic Resources Institute guidelines. Special agronomic features like resistance to pests and pathogens and adaptations to different edaphic conditions are also empirically tested on trial plots. At Basudha, farmer-researchers have developed eight new varieties through crossing and selective breeding of various landraces.

Disseminating Seed Banks

Vrihi has founded, co-founded, and enriched several rice seed banks in different parts of the country, by donating hundreds of valuable seeds of vanishing rice varieties. Thus, seed banks in West Bengal (Paschim Sridharkati Unayan Samiti of North 24 Parganas district, Panchal Susthayi Krishi Udyog Samiti in Bankura district, Richharia Seed Bank in Bardhaman district); Odisha (farmers seed banks in Rayagada district, Bargarh district and Koraput district), Karnataka (Sahaja Samruddha’s rice seed bank in Mandya district), Maharashtra (Maharashtra Gene Bank in Nanded district), and Kerala (Paithrkam Chathamangalam Seed Bank in Kozhikode district).

Vrihi is operating in Odisha. Read here


Vrihi distributes a set of posters and handbills for indigenous farmers, describing

a) the benefits of conserving and growing folk rice varieties in indigenous farms, especially in limiting soil and climatic conditions;

b) the risks of genetically engineered crops that are being illegally commercialized by Monsanto Co. and its associates;

c) the risks and costs of chemical farming, which can be eliminated by ecological agriculture.

The handbills are in simple Bengali language. Some of these are also translated into Oriya for distribution in Orissa, in collaboration with local NGOs.

Vrihi documented India’s first copyrighted biodiversity register of folk rice varieties in 2000.[4] The copyright is held by Vrihi as a consortium of farmers who cultivate and exchange the rice varieties on their farms. The register gives a list of all farmers who either donated or received different rice seeds for in situ conservation. An enlarged and updated version of this register, incorporating description of characteristics of 416 rice landraces, was published in 2005.[5]

An ecological agriculture primer for farmers, describing methods of composting, seed saving, seed purification, nutrient management, pest and disease management, and water conservation, is forthcoming[6]

How to get there

Vrihi Beej Binimoy Kendra is now shifted from Bengal to a village in Rayagada district, Odisha.

If you are coming from Kolkata/ Haora, take Howrah-Koraput Express train to Muniguda, and then ride an auto-rickshaw or taxi to Kalibonga village (30 min. drive). After that, you will need to walk to Basudha farm.

Alternatively, you may arrive in Vishakapattanam (nearest airport). From there, take a train to Bissam Cuttack, and then hire a car to Kalibonga.


[1] Sperling, L. and M. Loevinsohn (eds), 1997. Using Diversity: Enhancing and Maintaining Genetic Resources On-farm. IDRC. Ottawa, Canada. URL: http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-9290-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

[2] NBPGR 2007. Perspective Plan: Vision 2025. National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. Pusa Campus, New Delhi. URL: http://www.nbpgr.ernet.in/%5Cdownload%5Cvision_nbpgr_2007.pdf

[3] Deb, Debal 2006. Flowering asynchrony can maintain genetic purity in rice landraces. Current Science (Bangalore) 91: 155-157. URL: http://www.isas.ac.in/currsci/jul252006/155.pdf

[4] Deb, Debal (with A. Ram, D. Bhattacharya, N Mandal and R Mahato) 2000. Folk Rice Varieties of West Bengal: Morphological and Agronomic Characteristics. RFSTE. New Delhi.

[5] Deb, Debal (with D Bhattacharya, K K Jana, R N Mahato, R Pramanik, A Ram and S Sinha) 2005. Seeds of Tradition, Seeds of Future: Folk Rice Varieties of Eastern India. RFSTE. New Delhi.

[6] Deb, Debal, Paribesh Bandhab Krishi Sahayika [A guide to eco-friendly agriculture, in Bengali]. CIS. Barrackpore (forthcoming)

Last Updated (Thursday, 15 August 2013 19:53)

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Deb’s new paper on biomolecular mapping of rice grains

February 7, 2019February 7, 2019
Deb's new paper on mass spectroscopy showing localization of various biomolecules in the grains of selected rice landraces. This work was accomplished in T. Pradeep's lab in IIT-M. Read here

Deb’s work featured in Gaia Foundation exhibition

October 24, 2018October 24, 2018
Gaia Foundation's photography exhibition, We Feed the World, held in October in London, featured Deb's conservation work as one of the best examples of the triumphs and tribulations of the smallholder farmers and fisherfolk who bring food to the plates of hundreds of thousands of people every day. Report here.

IIT-Madras talk

September 12, 2018September 12, 2018
September 12:  D. Deb gave talk at IIT-Madras on ‘Agroecology’, and designed a collaborative research with Prof. T Pradeep. DD-IITM    

Debal and Debdulal train Koraput farmers

August 31, 2018August 31, 2018
Debal Deb and Debdulal Bhattacharya went to 4 villages in Boipariguda Block of Koraput district, Odisha on 29th and 30th August to give hands-on training in rouging techniques to maintain the genetic purity of the folk varieties distributed to them earlier this year. This year, more than 1100 farmers adopted 35 folk varieties to suit their land types.

Prof. T Pradeep talks at Basudha Study Circle

June 21, 2018June 21, 2018
Basudha Study Circle by Prof. T Pradeep of IIT-Madras on Nanotechnology and Water on 20 June 2018. Pradeep@BasudhaLab  

The Guardian cites Deb’s work

June 6, 2018June 6, 2018
John Vidal's new article in The Guardian describes Deb's work as "the antithesis of Bayer and Monsanto." https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/05/feed-the-world-real-people-faceless-multinationals-monsanto-bayer

Deb teaches Agroecology to Bangladesh Farmers

April 25, 2018April 25, 2018
D. Deb gave an intensive training in agroecology to farmers in the Agroecology School organised by RIB, at Nilphamari, Bangladesh. DD-BD-Nilphamari DD-BD-Farmers2 DD-BD-class DD-BD-Farmers1  

Deb questions the necessity of Golden Rice

April 3, 2018April 3, 2018
At an international conference "Stop Golden Rice", held in Quezon City, D. Deb talked with Philippino ministry and activists, and demonstrated the unnecessary public expenditure on developing Golden Rice, while several indigenous rice landraces from India and the Philippines contain vitamin A. [View video of Deb's speech here]

Basudha Study Circle Talk by Santanu Mitra

January 27, 2018January 27, 2018
Basudha Study Circle Talk on "Why You Should Be More Concerned about Glyphosate Herbicide than Farmers", by Santanu Mitra, eminent expert on the environment and public health from Canada. February 24, 2018. 4:00-6:00 pm. 186A, Kalikapur Canal Road, Ekatre 2nd Floor, Kolkata 700099. [View video recording here] Tonu-Glyphosate DD-Glyphosate  

Deb’s new paper identifies an Endangered Tree in Bengal

December 30, 2017December 30, 2017
D. Deb has identified a hitherto unidentified rare tree, locally known as Sitapatra as Cordia macleodii, of which only 5 mature specimens are surviving in West Bengal. Deb also adds a few novel characters of this species to its taxonomic description. Here is the new paper, published in Dec 2017.

Crash Course in Agroecology: Principles and Practice

November 2, 2017November 2, 2017
The Crash Course was conducted from 26 to 31 October 2017. Trainees from 4  States of India and one from Germany attended the course.

Rice conservaonists from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia visit Basudha

October 11, 2017October 11, 2017
Agroecology activists and rice conservators from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia visited Basudha on the 9th and 10th October. The team from MASIPAG, Philippnes exchanged seeds with Basudha.

‘Silver Rice’ paper published in ACS Journal

August 5, 2017August 5, 2017
Details of silver accumulation on Garib-sal rice published in ACS journal: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/ipdf/10.1021/acssuschemeng.7b02058

Deb’s New Paper on Traditional Agricultural Knowledge

June 2, 2017June 2, 2017
Deb's new paper Folk rice varieties, traditionl knowledge and nutritional security in South Asia is published in G. Poyyamoli (ed), Agroecology, Ecosystems, and Sustainability in the Tropics. Studera Press, New Delhi.

Deb’s Talk to Punjab Farmers: Transcript

February 18, 2017February 18, 2017

Hindu Business Line Blink on Deb’s Work

February 5, 2017February 5, 2017

Laconte and Remy write on Basudha

January 1, 2017January 1, 2017
Dr. Philippe Laconte and Jean Remy wrote articles on Basudha's work on conservation and sustainability, in Reflets and Biodynamis: Cultiver la Vie.

Seedling of Vitex glabrata planted in Odisha

November 25, 2016November 25, 2016
Basudha Lab regenerated a few seedlings using tissue culture method from seeds of the last specimen of Vitex glabrata, that existed in a roadside sacred grove in Chhandar village of Bankura district of West Bengal. This Critically Endangered tree was cut down in March 2016. The first seedling was successfully transplanted in Kerandiguda village, near Basudha farm, on November 18, 2016.

Basudha’s Work mentioned in OFAI Source Book

June 1, 2016June 1, 2016
Basudha's Work and Debdulal's contribution mentioned in Shamika Mone's Source Book on Organic Seeds, published by OFAI, Goa.

Basudha Lab’s Report (Jan-Apr 2016) Published

April 25, 2016April 25, 2016
The First Quarterly Report of Basudha Biotechnology Laboratory for Conservation is published. Click to download

Deb presented agroecology before Gujarat Chief Minister

April 19, 2016April 19, 2016
Kapil Shah and D Deb were invited to gave presentation before the Chief Minister, Gujarat, to suggest (a) enlisting of agroecology experts outside of mainstream agriculture universities on faculty of the proposed Organic Agriculture University, (b) agroecological design of a demonstration plot of the university, and (c) exclusion of GMOs from the State.

Agroecology training in Chittagong, Bangladesh

April 12, 2016April 12, 2016
Deb gave agroecology training for farmers and NGOs at Chittagong, Bangladesh from 10-12 April 2016.

34 Rice Landraces Rescued from Nagaland

January 2, 2016January 2, 2016
D. Deb and Avik Saha visited the districts of Dimapur and Peren in Nagaland and rescued 34 traditional rice landraces from imminent risk of extinction from agricultural modernization.

New publication: Biochar effect on crop productivity

January 2, 2016
Recently published: "Variable effects of biochar and P solubilizing microbes on crop productivity in different soil conditions" DOI: 10.1080/21683565.2015.1118001. [Download PDF]

Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems journal mentions Basudha’s work

December 2, 2015December 2, 2015
Editorial of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems vol. 39 (6), 2015 mentions Basudha's conservation and demonstration efforts.  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21683565.2015.1025894  [Download PDF]

New Demonstration Farm in Kashipur, West Bengal

November 28, 2015November 28, 2015
Under the auspices of Mr. Avik Saha, Basudha took over in November 2015 a new agroecological demonstration farm at Kashipur, West Bengal. This farm will (i) demonstrate agroecology and ecological fishery, and (ii) conserve multiple landraces of rice, millets, legumes and tubers.

New Study Published Showing Metal Profiles of 130 Rice Varieties

September 14, 2015September 14, 2015
In a recent issue of Current Science (10 Aug 2015), a new study on metal contents of 130 rice varieties was published, showing over 65 varieties containing high quantities of iron, and a unique variety containing a considerable amount of silver uptake and deposition in grains. This work was authored by D. Deb and Prof. T Pradeep, and Soujit Sengupta from IIT-Madras.

400 Indigenous Farmers Joining Force to Save Heirloom Seeds

May 19, 2015May 19, 2015
During a period of just 5 days, from the 13th June to 18th June, Basudha's campaign to save folk rice varieties persuaded over 400 farmer households to replace all modern rice varieties with heirloom varieties, on zero-external chemical input. D. Deb and Debdulal Bhattacharya visited 8 villages of Gendabaju and Kodisuru villages of Chandrapur block, Rayagada district of Odisha to talk with them about the value of indigenous rice varieties and the means to winning freedom from seed corporations and chemicals industry. Entire communities in these 8 villages, comprising over 400 farmer households, pledged to abandon all modern rice varieties, and grow indigenous seeds instead, on their farms. They would collect seeds free of cost from Virhi in early June. Kodisuru Gendabaju

22 Rice Landraces Rescued from Malkangiri District

March 26, 2015March 26, 2015
D. Deb surveyed 4 blocks in Odisha's Malkangiri district, and rescued 22 landraces to add to Vrihi's accession.

Biotechnology Lab for Conservation Opened in Aug 2014

August 26, 2014August 26, 2014
Basudha's Biotechnology Laboratory for Conservation opened in Kolkata on 12 August 2014, entirely funded by Mr. Avik Saha, cultural activist and lawyer, and Basudha's trustee. This laboratory is established with the explicit aim to promoting conservation of the country's biological heritage. The lab will remain engaged in studies to reveal genetic, biochemical and nutraceutical properties of folk rice varieties; and tissue culture of critically endangered plants to promote their conservation for the benefit of the local communities. This is the only lab in the country that runs on individual donations, and does not, and will not receive any institutional funding support from any governmental or corporate institutions, and is entirely aimed at biodiversity conservation. Read report in Times of India (New Delhi/Kolkata) 13 August.   [Download pdf]