SRI helps enhance rice productivity

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Apr 11 2011, 06:03am hrs
Indian being the important consumer of rice, the per capita availability of food (rice) had reached an all-time low of 64 kg per annum in 2008-09, which is 20 kg less than the minimum annual requirement of a normal person (NSSO survey). Therefore, to meet the nutritional needs of the people, the food production has to more than double in next 3-4 decades. But the biotic (pest, diseases and genetic decline) and abiotic stress including problematic weather aberrations due to climate change such as flooding and drought, temperature fall, frost, submergence and cyclone etc., put tremendous strains on food production system adding year to year fluctuation. More importantly, the worst is that the sector loses around 40% of crop production annually due to system inefficiency and wastage in addition loss due to pests, diseases and weeds infestation.

In view of static area planted under food crops reinforced by population competition and spate of urbanisation, the onus lies on productivity enhancement that ensure food security at various level (global, national and household level). The smallholders in rainfed area is vulnerable to low level productivity trap and violent price volatility, where the most hungry people live. The low productivity and large regional differences in yield implies ample scope to exploit the vast untapped potentiality to increase production and bridge the yield gaps.

System of Rice Intensification (SRI) provides ample scope for enhancing productivity and breaking the yield barrier in the smallholders fields. The novelty is that SRI produces more rice with less input while conserving precious water. An intrinsic feature of SRI is that it is a pro-poor option for household food security. The government, civil society organisation and NGOs are promoting SRI in an unprecedented scale and helping farmers in capacity building. These initiatives helped spreading the message widely in the rice growing districts, whereupon nearly 1 million ha of rice field is brought under SRI in India in 2009-10. SRI is an integrated package of agronomic approaches to exploit the genetic potential of rice plants; create a better growing environment (both above and below ground); enhance soil health; and reduce inputs cost substantially. Phenomenal saving in seed (90% saving) and water upto 40%, attracted farmers to adopt SRI.

Norman Uphoff, a professor of Cornell University, Ithaca, US, fully convinced about the role of SRI in meeting the food security need of the poor devoted his time in promoting its adoption and knowledge delivery globally. The origin of this simple technique can be traced in Madagascar where SRI was first practiced. This method has recently been introduced in India, where farmers improved productivity by using less water while incurring no additional cost.

SRI being a set of care intensive practices, imparting knowledge is important. Hence the capacity building and stakeholders awareness is crucial. Strengthening institutional framework including rural credit system, crop insurance, marketing and remunerative pricing policy is essential booster for rural areas.

Integrate the existing rice initiatives such as National Food Security Mission, rice research conducted by various government-owned institutes, is necessary to derive efficient strategies for upscaling. There is a need to develop stress tolerant rice varieties and farmer-friendly IPM practices keeping location specificities in mind.

SRI rice is preferred by the farmers for seed. Therefore, SRI seed may be promoted. Policy interventions should build on resource conserving property could be a source of sustainability. Increase irrigation facility in the rainfed areas through introducing water harvesting system. As SRI is suitable in rabi season, given the availability of controlled irrigation, the problem of rabi fallow may be addressed. This is an incentive for converting fallow areas to productive purposes.

n The author is Nabard chair professor, division of agricultural economics, IARI, Pusa, New Delhi