Farmers switch to new tech to pad up paddy growth

Written by Sunny Verma | Raipur | Updated: Dec 5 2012, 06:56am hrs
When Vimal Kumar Dhruw, a Chhattisgarh-based farmer, decided to replace his father's time-tested farming method with a new system, he knew it wouldn't be that easy.

The 35-year old Labrakhurd village resident went against his father's advice and began planting rice seeds in a portion of the family land using the rice intensification (SRI) method.

My father thought that I will destroy the farm, said Dhruw. But when the results came out, the criticism stopped. The SRI method doubled Dhruw's annual per acre profit to Rs 27,000 from Rs 14,000. His output increased to 30 quintals per acre from 12 an acre.

SRI focuses on planting single seedlings instead of multiple seedlings in a clump, and not keeping irrigated paddy fields flooded during the rice plants' vegetative growth stage, resulting in about 30-50% lesser usage of irrigation and lower fertilisers use. With his father on his side, Dhruw now uses the SRI method in his entire 20 acre farm and has taken another 50 acre on lease for farming.

Improved irrigation, better methods such as SRI and a shift away from mono-cropping towards multi-cropping under the Chhattisgarh Irrigation Development Project (CIDP) has not only improved the livelihoods of the state's farmers but also bettered agriculture productivity in the state. Areas covered under the CIDP project added an additional 2.4 million tonnes of paddy (or R250 crore) in 2010-11 in Chhattisgarh.

Started in June 2006, the $66.6-million CIDP project, funded by the Asian Development Bank ($ 46.1 million), state government ($19.9 million) and the beneficiaries ($0.6 million), will be completed by March 2013 and cover 600 villages. The project has rebuild irrigation systems and created farmer-led water user associations in the state, which is mostly dependent on rains.

Chhattisgarh has about 56 lakh hectare cultivable land of which 52 lakh is under cultivation, but only 10.5 lakh hectare is irrigated. The CIDP will provide irrigation facilities in 1.74 lakh hectares of land. The state is now considering to cover more villages under CIDP in the second phase.

In the last few years, Chhattisgarh has managed to increase its rice production significantly and has emerged as key contributor to the Food Corporation of India (FCI)'s rice procurement drive. Chhattisgarh is expected to produce more than 9 million tonne of paddy this year while the state's consumption is only around 1.5 mt.