By Zuhair Hasnain
March 06, 2012: ASIAN rice growing systems are undergoing changes in response to economic factors and technological advancement in farming.
Dry seed rice cultivation on the mechanical lines is the linkage of past practice with throughput technology, becoming indispensable to address problems like drudgery, high production cost, low quality, low crop intensity and above all water and labour scarcity.
The sowing of dry seeds into dry or moist, non-puddled soil has many advantages over traditional transplanting and is a principal method of rice growing in many parts of the world including Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, America, Japan and the sub-Saharan Africa.
In Pakistan traditional dry seeding in rice is reported only in few acres across Punjab and a big space exist for both research and extension wing of the agriculture department for its standardisation, popularisation and adaptation. With the recent developments in rice production technology across the globe, there should be flexibility in opting for the prevailing patterns and latest trends to achieve self-sufficiency and resource conservation.
Dry seeded rice, a simple approach, is beneficial for farmer. The foremost principal underlying this theory is water saving, cost benefit ratio, efficient land utilisation and better management practices. Water situation in the country and its scarcity need not be elaborated. In dry seeding of rice 30 per cent of water can be saved by eliminating puddling and if
intermittent irrigation (alternate wetting and drying concept), a new method of irrigation, is used additional 15-30 per cent of water can be saved and that can be a big achievement.
DBeside, about 40 per cent of labour cost can be saved by dry seeding method. Dry seeding also implies time saving, quicker land preparation in effective manner, and maximised yield.
Going ahead, if one more step is taken by clubbing the dry seeding rice cultivation with mechanised farming, it can reward the farmers more by generating the idea of intensification, higher yield with low input, reduced tillage and efficient utilisation of nutrients (proper placement and time).
Mechanisation will lead the growers to resource use efficiency and sustainable agriculture while muting the voice of environmental pollution.
The biggest challenge to this practice is weed manifestation. Various pre- and post-emergence chemicals have been introduced to fix it. Besides this, research is going worldwide over this system of cultivation for best management practices under innovative ideas by agronomists in regards to response of new breeding lines, adaptation to different soils and climatic conditions, and effective use of mechanisation concept.
Finally, this change in sowing pattern is expected to have a big impact on Asian rice production efforts and on the region’s economies. This is because one of the main forces driving such changes has been shrinking resources in the region, especially available land and water.
Pakistan should be a part of knowledge sharing and applied research centers working round the world. This way one can succeed in the achievement of mutually agreed benefits such as serving humanity, coping food security and fighting for the cause of hunger.
Effort in the direction of increasing output at the least cost is more important as the world population is going to increase to nine billion by 2050, which will require more than doubling the current food production. Asia grows 90 per cent of rice of the world which is mostly consumed by its population.
Each hectare of rice-producing land at present is providing food for 27 people. By 2050, because of growth in population and increasing urbanisation, each hectare will have to feed at least 43 people. This means that yields must be enhanced by at least 50 per cent over the next 40 years to prevent mass malnutrition among the 700 million Asians.
The writer is a PhD research scholar at The International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, Philippines.