Njavara facing extinction (Article published in THE HINDU dated, Monday , June 07, 2004)
By G. Prabhakaran
PALAKKAD, JUNE 6 . The indigenous medicinal cereal plant of Kerala, Njavara (Oryza sativa), widely used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine, especially in Panchakarma treatment, is facing extinction. This rice cultivar, grown in Kerala from time immemorial, is known as `Shashtika rice' due to its extra short requirement of just 60 days to grow and mature. `Ashtanga Hridaya' (Vagabhata, 500 BC) described two types of Njavara - black and white, of which the later is superior. But the yield and quality of Njavara vary with the location.
The `Susruta Samhita' (Susrutacharya, 2500 BC) cited Njavara as a special cereal, having properties to rectify the basic ills affecting the circulatory, respiratory and the digestive systems.
A study at the Regional Agricultural Research Station, Pilicode, found Njavara as a unique cereal having high content of free amino acids.

A study report of the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics,College of Horticulture,Vellanikkara,Thrissur,said that "being
a rare indigenous genetic resource of high value and unique production and quality characteristics, it is necessary that Njavara is studied thoroughly, conserved, propagated and utilised appropriately.''

The study said that "Njavara is one of the native genetic resources of Kerala, famed for its use in Ayurveda. As it seems to have originated in a limited area and did not sprad appreciably (as its cultivation and use is confined to Kerala)it can be considered an endemic crop."

The evolution of such cultigens could be the result of folk domestication and, as in the case of many such crops, there is danger of its being wiped out by large-scale cultivation of high-yielding rice crops

Since Ayurveda is becoming more popular in the country and outside, there is more demand for Njavara. The medicinal rice is now grown by some farmers in Palakkad, Malappuram and Thrissur. Though Njavara fetches good price, the farmers are not able to cultivate it because of the shortage of pure seeds

A farmer from Chittur, Narayanan Unni, who is engaged in the cultivation of Njavara, told The Hindu that he plans to expand his cultivation. He managed to collect some good seeds from different parts of Palakkad and Thrissur districts. However, he said, what is available in the market as Njavara is not the pure variety having the required quality for use in Ayurveda treatment

Mr. Unni said that attempts should be made to patent this indigenous plant of Kerala because the Intellectual Property Rights apply to the agriculture too

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