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Tuesday, Jan 21, 2003

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Space tech to map basmati area spread

M. Somasekhar


SPACE technology is now being focussed on the study of the geographical spread of the Indian basmati rice. The scented rice, which brings handsome export rewards to rice traders has of late come under patent controversy with Rice Tec Inc getting US patents for its variant.

The Hyderabad-based Agri Net Solutions Ltd has extensively mapped the basmati growing areas in the four states of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, under a project funded by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (Apeda).

District-wise maps and estimate of basmati grown during the kharif 2002, done perhaps for the first time, using satellite remote sensing data in the country has been completed and provided to the Government, Dr S. Thiruvengadachari, President of Agri Net, told Business Line here.

The first estimate of the area and production output of basmati in these four states was put out in October and the second and final estimate was done during December 2002 and the information given to Apeda. Agri Net, launched in 2000 provides consultancy and satellite remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS)-based products and services in the agriculture sector.

Except in Punjab in all other states, the premium rice variety is not grown in contiguous areas, which is a sort of challenge to space-based studies. ``We have sourced data from the Indian remote Sensing Satellites, with Liss camera on board for sharper imagery,'' he said.

Using space-based technologies, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Union Ministry of Agriculture are estimating the production figures for wheat annually. The technology is being used for estimation of potato and other crops.

The systematic study of basmati assumes significance in view of the challenges to it on the grounds of uniqueness in the geographical regions it is grown. The Indian basmati, traditionally grown in some of these States, has been fetching good market price in international markets and giving a run to some of the Pakistani varieties. However, with Rice Tec obtaining a patent for its `Texamati' and posing a challenge to the basmati, rice traders in India have felt threatened in the global markets.

The Indian Government in co-ordination with Apeda challenged the Rice Tec patent and succeeded in getting a majority of the claims made in the US patent rescinded. Simultaneously, it has take up the imperative need of properly documenting and building a scientific database through such initiatives.

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