Plant genetic resources constitute the basic raw material for any crop improvement programme. Collection, conservation and evaluation of rice germplasm has been one of the major activities of this institute from its inception.
The detailed investigation of the material collected from the Jeypore tract of Koraput district of Orissa revealed that this region could be a secondary centre of origin of cultivated rice. Additional investigations by the Japanese workers, particularly by H.I. Oka clarified that the rice varieties of this area have differentiated into incipient japonica and indica. The institute was recognized as one of the five centres for maintenance of rice germplasm in the world by the Food and Agricultural Organization.
The institute also took up a systematic collection of exotic rice germplasm from different parts of south and southeast Asia under a scheme on indica-japonica hybridization programme supported by ICAR for the benefit of different rice-growing States in the country, a large number of rice varieties from different States were added to the germplasm collection at the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI).
With the introduction of high-yielding, semi-dwarf varieties, Taichung (Native) 1 in 1964 and IR 8 in 1965 from Taiwan and the Philippines through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a new phase of rice breeding got started in this country. Soon rice breeders in different States bred new varieties incorporating the gene for semi-dwarfism from De-geo-Woo-gen utilizing either Taichung (Native) 1 or IR 8 as one of the parents and the popular local varieties as the other parent. All these newly bred semi-dwarf, high-yielding varieties were obtained and added to the germplasm collection at CRRI. The various international testing programmes organized by IRRI for evaluating varieties for their reaction to biotic and abiotic stresses brought several rice varieties from different parts of the world into this country. This helped to enrich the germplasm collection further.
The collection of local rice varieties from north-east India by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute during 1967 to 1972 with a scheme sponsored by the U.S. P.L. 480 funds and their subsequent transfer to this institute was a significant addition to the rice gene bank of this institute. Different rice-growing States have participated in the collection of rice germplasm in collaboration with CRRI and IRRI, and this added 5,500 varieties to this gene bank. Further collection is being made from the left out pockets of the country by CRRI in collaboration with NBPGR. The total number of collection now existing in the CRRI gene bank is about 22,700.
It has been decided in 1987 that all the curators of rice germplasm in the country have to transfer their rice germplasm to NBPGR for long-term storage. CRRI has been recognized as the National Active Collection Centre for Rice with the responsibility of rejuvenating the collection as and when necessary, characterization, medium-term storage and seed supply to various rice research centres.
A monograph on the high yielding varieties developed in India entitled, "Miracle Rice Varieties of India" containing details of 427 varieties was published in the year 1992. This would serve as a quick reference to researchers, farmers and administrators.