New tech could boost rice output by 5 million tonne

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 7 2011, 04:06am hrs
Through adoption of technique such as System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the countrys rice production could be increased by more than 5 million tonne annually which would help the country in meeting the food security requirement in coming years, a paper by national consortium of SRI experts said.

In addition to the fertiliser and price subsidies, electricity subsidies on rice have reached untenable level and it is estimated that on a per hectare basis SRI could reduce about 3,151 kwh of electricity and about R12.607 on subsidies, National consortium on SRI said in a status paper.

SRI may help substantially in reducing the embedded subsidies in every grain of rice and result in yield increase of 15% to 40%, B C Barah, Nabard chair professor of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to FE.

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. This results in reduction in the irrigation water application by about 30% to 50% and reduction in chemical fertilisers and pesticides application.

At present, about 42 countries have adopted SRI and about 1.5 lakh farmers have adopted the technique in 12,000 hectare across 160 districts. Tamil Nadu and Tripura are leading states adopting SRI. It is now realised that remodelling the extention system in the framework of strengthening innovation systems will promote SRI, Barah noted.

Under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM), a target for increasing rice production by more than 10 million tonnne by 2012 has been set in the food secure districts. An allocation of R5,000 crore under NFSM specifically targets 133 SRI districts out of 534 rice producing districts have been made.

SRI is not a technology but has potential to increase yield both for hybrid and local varieties of rice, Norman T Uphoff, SRI international network and resources center, Cornell University, New York, said. He noted that SRI ensured root growth thus help farmers adopt to more organic way of farming.

While civil sociey has played important role in taking up SRI forward those government agencies such as Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh that have innovated in their extension strategies have been able to take SRI further. SRI is a bankable technology approved by Nabard, it can enhance farmers incomes and improve soil health and has potential to become leader in agroecological innovations, Barah said.

India is the worlds second largest rice producer accounting for more than 20% of global production.