A unique characteristic of the plant is that its panicles change colour a total of five times between the stages of flowering and ripening
The aromatic Tulsimala, a premium quality of rice predominantly cultivated only in Sherpur and its surrounding areas, has made its way over to the other side of the Padma River.
The coastal region of Khulna, where it was cultivated experimentally for the first time in the last Aman season among 20 south-western districts, yielded a satisfactory harvest.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Tulsimala is cultivated only on 20,000-25,000 hectares of land in the country, of which 50% is cultivated in Sherpur district alone.
The rice was cultivated on 21,303 hectares in the Mymensingh region during the last Aman season. And of the total Tulsimala cultivation, 12,016 hectares was done in Sherpur.
However, for the first time in Khulna, this variety of rice was cultivated in Dauniafad village of Batiaghata upazila in the last Aman season.
SM Atiar Rahman, director at the public relations department of Khulna University, said he collected 2kg of Tulsimala seeds from Sherpur and distributed it among local farmers to cultivate experimentally while he supervised the process.
“Initially, I had doubts about the paddy as to whether it would be tolerant of the saline water in coastal areas. But the satisfactory yield has cleared those doubts,” he said.
He added that a unique characteristic of the plant was that its panicles changed colour a total of five times between the stages of flowering and ripening.
Usually, the plant is 50-52 inches tall and has a lifespan of 110-120 days. “Last season, around 30 maunds of paddy were harvested from 100 shotok [1 acre], all of which were saved as seeds for the next Aman season,” he added.
The rice is still cultivated in the Sherpur and Mymensingh regions for several reasons, including the need to save an ancient rice variety, expand its cultivation in the southwest and satisfy the demands of premium quality rice buyers.
Tolerant to the local climate, this very ancient rice variety is rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Tulsimala rice is quite rare and most commonly found only in the markets of Dhaka and Mymensingh divisions.
Tulsimala is the most expensive among all other premium rice varieties, with a staggering price of Tk120-140 per kilogram.
Dr Monirul Islam, professor of agrotechnology discipline at Khulna University, says he has done more research on this rice in his lab and has taken an initiative to see if some of the characteristics of this rice can be introduced in other varieties.