(Registered GI under class 30)

Description of the goods:

The botanical name of rice plant is Oryza sativa. Pokkali varieties/cultivars are world famous for their salinity tolerance. Traditional Pokkali cultivars are commonly cultivated by Pokkali farmers. Pokkali, Cheruvirippu and Chettivirippu are the ruling traditional cultivars of the tract. They have a yield potential of 1000-1500 kg/ha. Most of the land races are tall in stature with lodging characteristics. The height of these varieties varies from 160-200 cm, depending on season, drought and flood situation in the field. These genotypes have kneeling ability to keep panicles above flood water level. Upon lodging fresh roots will arise from the nodes to support the plants. The genotypes also show special ability for internodal elongation to overcome the effects of tidal and stagnant water. Pokkali varieties have very good initial seedling vigour (attains a height of 40-45 cm within a period of one month), luxuriant growth habit, very high tillering capacity (average 12-16 tillers), long panicles (>25 cm) with large number (120-160) of medium to long bold grains. All the traditional varieties/cultivars have red kernels.

Geographical area of production.

The Pokkali land lie in 33 Panchayats, two municipalities and one city corporation area in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts of Kerala. Original area under Pokkali was estimated to be 25,000 ha. But now Pokkali cultivation is carried out only in 8500 ha of this 5500 ha is under regular Pokkali cultivation and the remaining area is cultivated only when the climatic conditions are favourable. Majority of the remaining Pokkali land has been converted to garden lands for coconut cultivation and other purposes, vast areas are left fallow or used for prawn farming alone. The Pokkali tract which is comprised of low lying water logged areas along the saline coastal belt of Kerala is under the influence of tide, the amplitude of which may reach up to 1meter. These lands in their natural state are overgrown with mangroves. Pokkali tract, comprising of parts of Thrissur, Ernakulam and Alappuzha districts,
is situated between a latitude of 9o45" N and 10o15" N and a longitude of 76o10" E and 76o20" E. The Thrissur district is located at an altitude of 49.6 m above the mean sea level (MSL) and is situated at latitude of 10°32"N and 76°10"E longitude. The Ernakulam district is situated at latitude of 9o42’38" to 10o18’ N and longitude of 76o12’ to 76o46’ E. The Alappuzha district is situated at latitude of 9o05’ to 9o54’ N and longitude of 76o17’30" to 76o40’E. 

Specification :

Rice produced in the fields of Pokkali tract in Ernakulam, Alappuzha andThrissur districts is called as Pokkali rice. It is medium bold in shape with very good cooking quality, special taste, average protein percentage of 7.5-8.5 and intermediary amylose (in the range of 20 – 27.7 per cent) content. Rice has intermediate gelatinization temperature. Volume expansion of high yielding varieties is in the  range of 3.1 to 4.5. In general, Pokkali rice has a hulling percentage of more than 80,milling percentage of more than 75. Pokkali rice and the value added products made out of Pokkali rice have special taste and cooking qualities with medicinal properties.

Pokkali cultivation mainly depends on organic way of farming.

Nutrient contents of rice grain

i) Protein content : 7.2% to 10.9%
ii) Gelatinization temperature : Intermediate
iii) Chalkiness of endosperm : 10 to 20%
iv) L/B ratio : 2.25 to 3.08
v) Elongation ratio : 1.22 to 1.47

The term Pokkali refers to a salt tolerant traditional ‘rice cultivar’ grown in the coastal saline soils of Kerala. The areas of Pokkali cultivation are famous as Pokkali land and rice produced in this tract is famous as Pokkali rice. Many value added Pokkali products are produced from pokkali rice. M ajority of Pokkali land lie between the Vembanad Lake and the Arabian Sea coast of Kerala state and is distributed in 33 Panchayaths two municipalities and one city corporation area in the districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Alappuzha. The fields are submerged with saline water during most of the time and the tidal amplitude has direct impact on the salinity and water level in the field. As distant from saline soils found elsewhere in India, the origin, genesis and development of these soils are under peculiar climatic and environmental conditions. Soil is stiff impervious clay, rich in organic matter, bluish black in colour and is more than  1meter deep. The soil is hard and it creates deep fissures when dry and sticky when wet. With regard to the nutrient status, the soil is highly fertile with respect to major nutrients. During summer months, due to ingression of salt water from the sea, the soil becomes saline. But when the salinity is washed off in heavy monsoon rains, the inherent acidity of soil regenerate. The soil is highly acidic, the pH being 3.0-4.5. Water-soluble salts like sulphates and chlorides of Na and Mg are present in high proportion. In dry conditions white encrustations of aluminum hydroxide develop on soil surface. With the onset of monsoon the salinity of soil gradually decreases and the water become fresh and fit for cultivation of paddy.

A special system of farming viz. Pokkali rice cultivation has been evolved through ages by the farmers of the area for the maximum utilization of available resources without affecting the eco-system. After the paddy cultivation, the fields are used for prawn/fish cultivation. In more than 90 per cent of the single cropped lands, rice cultivation is done during the low saline phase from May/June to September/October. The traditional prawn filtration is taken up during the high saline phase that sets in December/January. The cultivation of rice crop in 2nd crop season with the cultivar ‘Oorumundakan’ from August/September to December/January is prevalent in stray patches at Muthukulam in Alappuzha district and Mathilakom in Thrissur district. Pokkali cultivation is one of the major natural organic farming of rice prevalent in Kerala. Neither chemical fertilizers nor plant protection chemicals are applied to the crop.The daily tidal inflow and outflow of backwaters, the luxuriant growth of micro flora and fauna, the natural deposit of decomposed floating aquatic weed mass and the huge left over biomass of rice plant after harvest make the Pokkali fields nutrient rich. Fishes cultured in Pokkali field act as biocontrol agents for weeds and pests and hence are a boon to this organic farming devoid of weedicide and pesticide application. Pokkali system mainly depends on traditional Pokkali cultivars . ChootuPokkali, Chettivirippu, Cheruvirippu, Kuruva, Anakodan, Eravapandy, Bali, Orkayama, Orpandy and Pokkali are the traditional cultivars prevalent in this tract. Pokkali varieties/cultivars are world famous for their salinity tolerance and are highly valuable as gene donors in international rice improvement programmes for salinity tolerance. They are also tolerant to soil acidity. Due to the unique system of Pokkali cultivation and use of unique Pokkali cultivars in combination with peculiar soil and agro-climatic conditions of the region, the rice produced in the tract has unique cooking quality and distinct organoleptic characteristics of taste and flavour that attracted consumers in domestic market. Rice and value added rice products, from the tract, like rice flour, rice flakes, broken rice, rice bran and brown rice having the above said special characteristics has won a unique position with substantial reputation in rice trade as ‘Pokkali rice’ and “Pokkali rice products”. It also has reputation as medicinal rice that is used traditionally in health care systems. Pokkali rice is processed and prepared adopting the traditional system of paddy processing.

Proof of origin: (Historical records)

The extracts of Cochin State Manual authored by Shri. C. Achutha Menon,Former Secretary to Diwan, Ernakulam and published by Cochin State Government in the year 1911 contain a detailed description of the system of Pokkali cultivation mentioning characteristics of traditional Pokkali cultivars and peculiar agro-climatic and soil characteristics of the tract. (Printed at Cochin Govt. Press, pp. 537) The extract of Kerala State Gazetteer edited by Shri. Balakrishnan and published in the year 1989 also contains a detailed account of physical description of Pokkali area and the main features of Pokkali cultivars. (Printed by Kerala Gazetteers Dept. Govt. of Kerala, pp. 779) The above-mentioned historical documents give an account of Pokkali tract and the peculiar system of cultivation prevalent in the area.

Method of production:

Physical, Chemical and Ecological properties of soil of pokkali tract

Pokkali lands comprise of low-lying marshes near streams, rivers and other water bodies. These soils are characterized by soluble salt accumulation, especially sodium, over an underlying acidic soil containing toxic levels of iron and manganese. These soils are more than 1 m deep, dark bluish black in colour, impervious and clayey in texture, which form hard mass with cracks on drying and turn sticky on wetting. With regard to the nutrient status, the soil is highly fertile with respect to the organic carbon content of soil. Sea and backwater tides make these soils saline. The soluble salts comprises mainly of chlorides and sulphates of Na, Mg and Ca. During monsoon season, when rainwater and fresh water from rivers enter the field, salinity is partially washed off. Under such conditions the acidity of these soils also minimised. A study on the mechanical composition revealed that they are either clayey or clay loam in texture. Detailed fertility investigations in these soils showed the extreme deficiency of phosphorus. Surface soils of Pokkali lands are richer in potassium. Total sodium content ranges from 0.49 to 2.8 per cent. During summer months, due to ingression of salt water from the sea, the soil becomes saline. The soil is highly acidic, the pH being 3.0 – 4.5. In dry conditions white incrustations of aluminium hydroxide also developed on soil surfaces. The electrical conductivity of soils during the high saline phase ( Nov. – May ) varies from 12 – 24 dS / m. and average salt content reaches upto 20 ppt. During low saline phase ( June – Oct. ) water becomes almost fresh, salt content reduces to traces and electrical conductivity ranges from 4 – 6 dS / m.

Details of Agro – climatic conditions of the pokkali growing areas

Salinity hinders the growth of plants by limiting the moisture availability to the plant because of an increase in osmotic pressure of soil water and by the toxicity of the specific ions. Salinity causes poor vegetative growth, high sterility and ultimately results in low yields of grain and straw. The tides act as a stress by causing submergence, soil salinisation and soil anaerobiosis. It also removes excess salts, reestablish aerobic conditions and provide nutrients. They also shift and alter the sediment patterns in coastal wetlands. The action of water and sediments creates spatial heterogeneity, which opens up additional ecological niches. Restoration of tidal influence leads to a rapid increase in pH and improves productivity when sufficient fresh water is available seasonally. The high tide and low tides occurring twice a day regulate the fertility and productivity of the Pokkali soils. Tide brings nutrients to the Pokkali fields and removes toxic concentrations of heavy metals. The tidal influx is also helpful for the growth of a broad spectrum of beneficial microbes. The reclamation method of Pokkali soils is unique in several aspects. The high mobility of the water-soluble salts is made use of in the reclamation of these saline soils. Pokkali fields are drained and when the soil becomes dry, are heaped up to form mounds of about 1 m base and half a metre height. With the onset of monsoon the salt is washed off from the soil and water with the dissolved salt is drained off from the field and thus the salinity levels are brought to the below critical level for rice growth. The traditional cultivars of pokkali ecosystem of Kerala are Pokkali,Cheruvirippu, Chettivirippu, Kuruka, Ponkuruka, Karutha kuruka, Mundakan,Anakodan, Eravapandy, Orkayama and Orpandy . All these varieties are tall (>180 cm). Several local products such as Puttupodi , Appam podi, Idiyappam podi, Idli /Dosa mavu, Avil, Avilose podi which are famous for its taste are made from pokkali rice. These products fetch high price in the local markets compared to the products made from other rice varieties. The raw bran is also available in the market for consumption purpose. The bran contains high percentage of bran oil which has high neutraceutical value. Several food items of bran with jaggery and grated coconut is prepared in the houses of Kerala. Tooth powder using husk of pokkali rice is also in great demand.The straw of pokkali rice is usually not harvested from field and this will decay and becomes food of succeeding prawn crop and maintains the soil fertility.

The system of prawn filtration /rice – fish culture / rice – shrimp culture adopted by farmers After harvest of rice the field is used for fish or prawn capture, which provides a substantial subsidiary income to the farmer. Prawn filtration is resorted in areas where tidal amplitude is high. In other areas fishes contribute the income. The Pokkali rice-fish/ prawn integration is the most viable and ecofriendly practice in pokkali fields. In this system, the seed shrimps and fishes are allowed to enter into the post harvest Pokkali fields through tidal water and then trapped for short term culture. Prawn filtration in Pokkali fields starts with the strengthening of outer bunds and installation of sluice gates. Removal of weeds and desilting of canals, wherever necessary, are carried out for increasing the water holding potential (Rajendran, et al.,1993). Brackish water carrying the shrimp seed ingresses and egresses regularly at desired levels during high and low tides respectively. While regulating the entry and exit of tidal flow, a large mesh conical bag net or closely packed bamboo screen is suitably installed in the sluice gate. This process being repeated cautiously during each tide enables the shrimp and fish seed to get concentrated in the field. The fish species generally selected for rice cum fish culture have characteristics to adapt to the rice ecosystem. The candidate species for rice cum fish culture must be capable to withstand the anoxic condition in field water during the post harvest decay of rice stubbles. Fast growth rate to get marketable size within the short cultural period was another criteria endorsed for rice fish integration. Male Tilapia was found most ideal species for rice fish integration in terms of growth and yield. Cultivation of rice continued to improve the biological potential of fields since the stubbles left after the harvest decomposed and provided shelter and feed for the growth of microorganisms, which formed ideal food for fish and shrimps . The production of zoo and phytoplankton was high in the rice bottom, since the rice fields are fertile.The production cost of fish could be substantially reduced since the rice crop residues provided adequate detrital supplements to fishes. In the rotational rice-prawn system the shrimps took shelter in between the decaying paddy stalks. The decomposing paddy stubbles released nutrients to the system invigorating periphyton production and live feed generation, in addition to transforming itself as detritus. It is reported better growth of rice and increase in yield by 8.0 to 47.3 per cent in fields with rice-fish culture. The increase in rice production and yield attributes in rice fish culture was attributed to the beneficial role on rice by aeration of the soil and subsequent release of soil nutrients. The improved oxygen exchange on account of the movement of fish in rice field enhanced the dissolved nutrient mobilisation due to mechanical stirring of the impounded water. The excreta of fish directly fertilized the water in rice fields.The culture of Male Tilapia with rice contributed Nitrogen accumulation through their faeces and decreased ammonia volatilization by reducing the biomass of micro algae that increased the floodwater pH. In the Pokkali tract, farmers adopt a pragmatic and unique method for saline farming. The soil management and varietal selection are done meticulously to avoid crop failure due to salinity. By April, the bunds are strengthened and sluices repaired for regulating water levels. The fields are drained during low tide and the sluices closed. When the soil in the field becomes dry the fields are thrown open and mounds, locally called as Kanni, of 1m base and half meter height are formed. The monsoon rainwashes down the dissolved salts on the mounds. The salts washed down are removed from the field by tidal action. The mounds act as elevated in situ nursery and protect the seedlings from flash floods. In some area instead of mounds, ridges are prepared for sowing seeds. For preparation of mounds and ridges special types of Pokkali spades are used, which ensures that during preparation of mounds or ridges, only surface soil will be disturbed. Deep soil, if disturbed will add to salinity problem in the soil, by bringing more salts from deep layers to soil surface. The pH of water ranges from 7.0 to 8.5 and the mean temperature 28 to 31oC. When the soil and weather conditions become favourable for sowing, the baskets containing the seeds are re-soaked for 3-6 hrs before sowing. The mounds in the field are then raked and the top levelled. The sprouted seeds are sown on the top of mounds or ridges, which act as nursery in situ. The sown seeds will be pasted to mounds or ridges with clay. This is to avoid removal of seeds by flooding and to reduce damage by birds.Paddy from Pokkali tract is processed adopting the traditional system of paddyprocessing. Paddy will be thoroughly cleaned with good quality water to remove the half filled grains, dirt and stones. Washed grains will be soaked in water overnight and in the next day morning one more washing will be made. Then the soaked paddy will be subjected to steam boiling in specially designed machines, for half an hour, using steam coming out from boiling water. Steamed paddy will then be transported to drying yards in  special trolleys and will be subjected to slow drying, consecutively for two days, approximately for 6 hours/day with periodical turning for uniform drying. The paddy thus dried will be stored and will be milled, polished and packed according to demand. Broken Pokkali rice is also produced in the same way by providing more time for boiling (3/4 hrs) and drying. Fresh bran collected at the time of polishing will be packed and sold as  Pokkali rice bran and is rich in Vitamin B and can be used as a traditional medicine for curing ‘Beriberi’. Milling of raw rice, without parboiling gives ‘Raw Pokkali’ rice. Processing of Pokkali rice without polishing gives ‘Brown Pokkali’ rice which is highly nutritious as it preserves the nutrients in rice bran which are otherwise lost during polishing. ‘Pokkali Aval’ (flaked rice) is produced by pounding of roasted, soaked Pokkali rice.


Pokkali cultivation is a pure organic farming of rice in tune to natural and climatic situations existing in the area and the farmers undertake the cultivation as a challenge for their survival in a highly unfavourable life situation. This organic system of rice cultivation is highly eco-friendly. The distinctive, exclusive and rare qualities of Pokkali rice could be the result of several factors. The very good cooking quality, with a high percentage of protein could be attributed to the genetic parameters of Pokkali cultivars, the purely organic method of cultivation and the method of processing. The bold grain with its medium amylase content and distinctive organoleptic characteristics of taste, flavour etc. has increased the consumer preference for Pokkali rice and other value added products like Pokkali puttupodi, Pokkali aval, Pokkali rice bran, Pokkali brown rice, Pokkali broken rice etc. In general Pokkali rice is medium bold in shape with red kernel colour. The traditional cultivars show slow digestibility compared to improved cultivars and is mainly used as parboiled rice. Quality analysis in rice has proved that parboiling in rice saves many of the nutrients in rice kernel that are otherwise lost during milling. Similarly the red kernel colour of the cultivars makes the Pokkali products more nutritious. Pokkali rice and other Pokkali rice products have medicinal properties. Pokkali rice is commonly used in the preparation of ‘Marunnukanji’ which is a traditional health care food consumed during the Malayalam month “Karkidagam” falling during peak monsoon period in Kerala. Pokkali rice bran is believed to be good for smoothening the problems associated with piles. Pokkali broken rice is also considered to be best for the preparation of starter food after recovering from certain diseases like cholera and typhoid.Rice gruel water (Kanji vellam) from Pokkali is also considered as a highly suitable drink to patients suffering from Cholera. Pokkali rice and rice products have gathered a unique position in the domestic market. This rice is produced through the unique system of organic farming. Pokkali cultivars/varieties are unique to the area and have medicinal properties. Traditional Pokkali cultivars are the most valuable gene donors for salinity tolerance in rice and are utilized throughout the world in salinity resistance breeding programmes. International Rice Research Institute, Philippines has developed many high yielding rice lines utilizing the genes from Pokkali cultivars.

Address :

1. Kerala Agricultural University, K.A.U. P.O, Thrissur Dist, Kerala-680 656, India

2. Pokkali Land Development Agency, N.Paravur, Ernakulam Dist., Kerala-683513,India