Harvesting a grainy dividend
With more rice eaters than wheat in India, the country’s paddy production needs a desperate boost and what’s needed at this juncture are low cost solutions to help the large number of small and marginal farmers increase both yield and production, say Dr.J.R.Mishra & J.P. Sethi.
With 13 crore families engaged in farming – majority of them classified as small and marginal farmers – agriculture is an integral part of India’s economy and society. In the next five years, by 2020, these families will collectively need to produce 281 MT of food grains to feed 1.3 billion stomachs. Not just that, they will need to increase their output by 2 per cent each year to keep pace with the growing population.
Rice plays a major role in India’s diet, economy, employment, culture and history. Ninety per cent of the rice produced is consumed within the country. India ranks first in the world for area under rice cultivation (43.9 million ha) and second, after China, as far as production (106.5 million tons) is concerned in 2013-14. However, the yield levels in India are low (2.4 tons/ha) contrasted with other rice producing nations.
The country’s demand for rice has been growing due to the In India ever burgeoning population. It is estimated that to ensure food security in the rice-consuming countries of the world, rice production would have to be increased by 50 per cent in these countries by 2025 and, this additional production will have to be produced on less land with less usage of water, labour and chemicals.
In fact, rice cultivation is in crisis the world over and India is no exception, with a shrinking area, fluctuating annual production, stagnating yields and escalating input costs. The cost of cultivation of paddy has consistently been increasing owing to the increasing cost of seeds, fertilizer and labour. With increasing labour scarcity due to urbanisation, sustaining the interest of farmers in rice cultivation has become a challenge. There is clearly an urgent need to find ways to grow more rice, but with less water and fewer inputs. Several exciting approaches have recently been developed—the system of rice intensification (SRI), Direct seeded rice (DSR), drum seeder —which not only reduces the use of input resources, but also increases yields significantly and enhances the livelihoods of rice farmers.
System of Rice Intensification (SRI)
System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a suitable practice to deliver more production with fewer inputs. SRI was developed in Madagascar in the mid-1980s by Father Henri de Laulanie, a Jesuit Priest, who put in more than 30 years in that nation working with ranchers. It is a strategy for rice cultivation; however some consider and regard it as an innovation. SRI system deviates from the customary methods for rice cultivation over hundreds of years. It utilises less seeds, less water and fewer chemicals. In SRI method, synergic interaction leads to much higher yields and offers increased land, labour and water productivity which involves 20%-100% or more increased yields, up to a 90% reduction in required seed, and up to 50% water savings. In fact, it is a less water consuming method of rice cultivation, which is suitable to poor farmers who have relatively more labour than land and capital. Under SRI method of Rice cultivation, root development is healthier, tillering is almost double and the crop does not lodge. The grain weight was more and less incidence of pests and diseases were observed. Raised seed bed should be prepared by mixing FYM in the soil either on polythene covers, banana sheaths etc. or on soil itself. Five kg of seed per ha is sufficient as against 50–60 kg per ha in traditional method of rice cultivation. Transplanting should be done with 8-12 days aged seedlings with two small leaves as against 25 days and above in traditional method of rice cultivation. Seedlings should be removed carefully from the nursery without disturbing the roots of the plant along with mud and single seedling should be transplanted per spot in the main field. Water in the main field should be drained before transplanting. Wider spacing of 25 cm × 25 cm in square pattern should be maintained for better aeration and for easy intercultural operations. Naturally weed growth is more in these fields because there is no stagnated water. Weeding should be done with rotary weeder/cono-weeder for at least four times with an interval of 10 days starting from 10th day after planting. It churns the soil and the weeds are incorporated in the soil, which in turn serves as organic manure. It helps in increased soil aeration and soil health. The soil should be kept moist but not saturated by alternately irrigating it and drying it. Use more organic manure, up to 10 tonnes per ha. and reduce the quantity of chemical fertilisers. SRI helps in conservation of land fertility, water and bio-assorted qualities and usage of natural force of plant and sunlight based vitality. Yield supportability of SRI has both full scale and smaller scale financial significance. At the end, the supported yield levels among the farmers will guarantee stable production and thus food security.
The drum seeder used for sowing is made up of plastic (only the shaft and handle used in the equipment are of mild steel). The simple structure of machine makes it easy to operate by a single operator. The drum seeder has advantages over transplanting viz. i) direct seeding method eliminates nursery raising, pulling seedlings and transplanting of seedlings thereby reduced sowing operation cost; ii) it facilitates real time management in seeding; iii) it has advantage of line sowing that helps in post-sowing management of crop like inter-culture, weeding, irrigation, harvesting; and iv) green technology being environment friendly machine as it does not require fuel for running. For direct seeding by drum seeder, 40 kg per ha of seeds are required, with 5-6 hours time needed per ha. Labour required for the sowing of seed is 2 persons (one for pulling the drum seeder, one to help the puller to lift the machine at the end of the field and to fill/ refill the seed in the drum). The weed problem may be taken care by a chemical spray (Nomini gold @ 500 ml per hectare) at 3-5 leaf stage of weeds. Alternatively it could be done manually and also mechanically as the spacing is suitable for it. Here paddy seed is soaked in water for 12-18 hours and sprouted paddy seed is then dried in shed for 3-4 hours before sowing. In Drum seeding method the cost of cultivation is reduced by about Rs.10000 ‐ 14000 per ha as the operations like nursery field preparation, rising nursery, nursery pulling and manual transplanting as done in traditional transplanting method are skipped. It also results in improved productivity due to wider spacing of 20 cm between rows and reduced crop duration by 7‐10 days.
Direct seeded rice (DSR)
Non-puddled Direct Seeded Rice is a cost effective rice establishment method where dry seed is drilled into the non-puddled soil. It includes proper land levelling and effective weed control measures. The benefit of the direct seeded rice method is that it avoids repeated puddling, preventing soil degradation and plow-pan formation. It facilitates timely establishment of rice and succeeding crops as crop matures 10-15 days earlier. It also saves 35-40% water, reduces production cost by Rs 3000/ha and increases yields by 10%. It helps save input resources like labour, fuel and seed. Here land is prepared by ploughing the fields during summer to control emerging weeds, and then levelling is done in the field which facilitates uniform irrigation and better germination. The machinery required for the direct seeding is Minimum-till drill/Power tiller drill, Zero-till drill, Bed drilling. Seeds are placed at an optimum depth of 2-3 cm. The seed should be covered by soil for proper germination and to avoid bird damage. Soil moisture content at seeding should be sufficient for proper germination. Surface mulching is done to retain soil moisture longer to improve emergence and reduce weed menace. Seed rate of 20 to 25 kg/ha, in general is required in DSR method. Seeding time for dry seed of normal rice is at the start of monsoon i.e. when farmers put seed into nursery bed which is in between the third week of May to second week of June. Pre-germinated weeds can be knocked down with glyphosate/grammoxone (at 0.5% two days before seeding) or by 1-2 very shallow ploughings (stale seed bed method) and second flush of weeds can be removed manually.