Grow rice now with half the water

The SRI or System of Rice Intensification is being used extensively in Tamil Nadu and Tripura and in a limited way in parts of Kerala. Rice fields usually need to be submerged in water for almost 80-90 days. But the new method reduces water requirement by 50 per cent and increases yield by 30 to 50 per cent. The SRI comes at a time when India is debating the use of genetic modification to improve productivity. The method was first developed in Madagascar during the 1980s. It is now being tested in India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. „In the traditional way of cultivation, rice plants are first grown in nurseries for a month and then uprooted in bunches and planted in fields under water- logging conditions. In the SRI method, the plants are taken off the nurseries after 8-12 days and planted in fields not in water-logging conditions,” K.M. Nayar from the National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning said. Also, in the SRI method only one or two rice plants are uprooted while in the traditional method plants are taken off in bunches. A distance of about 25 cm is maintained between two plants in the SRI method which leads to better growth and thus reduces the quantity of seeds required per hectare of land. „In the traditional mode of cultivation, almost 70 kg of seeds is required per hectare while in the new method 10 kg of seed per hectare is sufficient,” Nayar said. Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, said: „Yield improvement is because of better root growth which results from proper spacing and the absence of water-logging.” The plants produced using the new method will be healthier because of the diversity of soil biota. They will also be resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses such as pests and drought. Also, less methane is produced under such conditions. In Tripura, over 3.5 lakh farmers have taken to the SRI. „The method can be made popular, especially in areas of water scarcity. But political will is required,” Krishnan said. „There is a need to try the method for maize and wheat as well. Farmers will have to be trained,” he added.

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