Amidst the worst concerns of the farmers in Kashmir in view of prolonged dry spell, agriculture experts here have brought some hope to them.
According to experts with the SK University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) some innovative methods like ‘system of rice intensification’ (SRI) can be a boon to the paddy farmers amid the prevailing “hopeless” condition.
It may recalled that the irrigation and flood control department has asked the farmers not to cultivate paddy this year in view of drying up of the irrigation canals in Kashmir.
“Under SRI, it takes just 2 kg of seeds per acre, while it takes 30 kg seeds per acre in traditional cultivation,” Dr Muhammad Anwar Bhat, senior scientist Agronomy at SKUAST-K said.
“With the SRI, a new way of cultivating rice has gained prominence among the farmers in several areas. The new form of cultivation is not just cost-effective, it needs less water and gives more yield as compared to traditional form of rice cultivation,” Dr Bhat said.
He said by adopting SRI, the farmers will be able to produce 30 quintals of rice per acre whereas in traditional method they produce only 20 quintals.
He said under SRI, the seedlings are planted 10×10 inches apart from each other in perfect rows and columns. “The adequate spacing gives the seedling maximum opportunity of absorbing nutrients from its surroundings. There remains very less chance of pest infestation or diseases.”
The SRI is also water effective. “The water required to irrigate an acre in traditional way can irrigate one and half acres of land under SRI,” he said.
“The SRI involves cultivating rice with as much organic manure as possible, starting with young seedlings planted singly with wider spacing in a square pattern,” Dr Khurshid Ahmed Dar, assistant professor Agronomy MLRI Mansbal SKUAST-K told Greater Kashmir.
He added: “The intermittent irrigation keeps the soil moist but not inundated, and frequent inter cultivation with weeder actively aerates the soil.”
According to experts, SRI is a set of ideas, a methodology for comprehensively managing and conserving resources by changing the way that land, seeds, water, nutrients, and human labour are used to increase productivity from a small but well-tended number of seeds.
Under SRI, the paddy fields are not flooded but kept moist during vegetative phase. Later only one inch water is maintained. “SRI requires only about half as much water as normally applied in irrigated rice,” experts said.
The SRI was first invented by a priest named father Henry in Madagascar (Africa), who experimented and came up with the new technique of cultivating rice, experts said.
DOs AND DON’Ts
Transplant 8-12 day old seedlings, with only two small leaves, (More tillering potential and root growth potential).
Minimise trauma in transplanting. Remove plant from nursery with the seed, soil and roots carefully and place it in the field without plunging too deep into soil (More tillering potential)
Plant single seedlings, not in clumps, and in a square pattern 25cm x 25cm apart or wider. Do not plant in rows. (More root growth potential)
WEEDING AND AERATION:
Use simple mechanical “rotating hoe” that churns up soil; 2 weedings required, (More root growth, due to reduced weed competition, and aeration of soil, giving roots more Oxygen and Nitrogen due to increased microbial activity) Each additional weeding after two rounds results in increased productivity up to 2 t/ha /weeding.
Regular water application to keep soil moist but not saturated, with intermittent dryings, alternating aerobic and anaerobic soil conditions (More root growth because it avoids root degeneration, enables better absorption of nutrients from the soil).