New tech to help Bengal cut water consumption

Written by Rohit Khanna | ROHIT KHANNA | Kolkata | Updated: Jul 4 2010, 04:46am hrs
At a time when productivity is dwindling in West Bengal, farmers are trying out a new method, Systemic Rice Intensification, to increase productivity. The new method uses 40% less water and has helped increase production by 20% in some blocks of the state.

The new mode of cultivation, which was physically developed outside the formal rice research establishments, started in Tamil Nadu and was taken up by a few states on a pilot basis.

We have seen a very good response in West Bengal. Farmers have already accepted the new method of cultivation, said Sanjiv Chopra, joint secretary, Union agriculture ministry.

According to agriculture department officials, farmers in almost all blocks in North Bengal have adopted the new technique after initial resistance.

Primarily we are encouraging farmers to adopt SRI method for Boro cultivation as water requirement for the new method is almost 40% less, said Subir Choudhury, consultant of RKVY.

The method includes planting single seedlings instead of multiple seedlings in a clump with almost 10 inches space between each seedlings. The ground, unlike the normal cropping procedure, is not kept flooded during the rice plants vegetative growth stage. The planting is done in a square pattern and not at random or in rows.

The best part of the new method is water requirement is reduced by almost 40%, said Choudhury. Although farmers are using the method during Boro cropping season, we are also trying to popularise SRI method in up-land districts like Purulia, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, Birbhum and Burdwan during the Kharif season, he added.

The state, which has almost 15 lakh hectares under Boro rice cultivation, has resorted to the new cropping pattern in 2008. While 29 farmers in Bhangar of South 24 Parganas district were trained in SRI, only five tried the new method. The farmers have now seen the benefits of the new method. Apart from low water requirement, fertiliser cost and requirement of pumpsets has also come down, Choudhury said.

While the productivity was around 4 tonne per hectare in the normal mode of cultivation, it went up to 4.5-4.6 tonne after farmers resorted to SRI method, he added.