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Traveling interactive meetings convince farmers in Odisha to switch to stress-tolerant rice varieties and farm mechanization

posted Dec 16, 2016, 12:29 AM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
by N.C. Banik, P. Anand, and A. Kumar

ODISHA, India—A traveling seminar and an interactive meeting with farmers was organized in Puri District to show the benefits of growing stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) using sustainable intensification technologies. 

The event, held on 22 November, showcased flood-tolerant CR 1009-Sub1, Swarna-Sub1, and BINA dhan11 and the drought-tolerant DRR-42 planted in farmers’ fields in Danogahir, Achhuasahi, and Srikanthapur during kharif 2016 using (direct-seeding drill and mechanical transplanter. In addition to the improved varieties, best management practices such as optimal seed rate and planting time, fertilizer scheduling, and integrated weed management were also highlighted.  

The field demos attracted the interest of about 65 farmers, village agriculture workers, NGO partners, and service providers. Farmers across different sites were impressed with the STRVs because of the vigorous crop stand, resistance to lodging, and higher yield compared to traditional varieties. Some farmers were initially apprehensive about using STRVs and direct seeding—being totally new interventions in the area. However, they were eventually convinced to adopt the technologies for next year’s cropping season as they realized the added assurance of higher yields even with heavy rainfall or flooding. 

“In coastal Odisha, the BINA dhan-11, being short duration and flood-tolerant variety, could be a good option for re-sowing or transplanting late in the season in areas where floods have damaged crops planted earlier,” said Dr. Narayan Chandra Banik, an agronomist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-India.  

The participating farmers were also impressed with the direct-seeding drill and mechanical transplanters because of the immediate benefits such as significant savings in labor, energy, cost of cultivation, and reduced drudgery. 

New service providers created by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and farmers who opted to use mechanical transplanting said they could transplant rice seedlings in time at a reduced cost. They also obtained higher rice yield than from manual transplanting.
The main concern of stakeholders about direct seeding is weed management and limited knowledge on the proper use of herbicides. “Integrated weed management with newly recommended pre- and post-emergence herbicides and manual and mechanical weeding could be an effective option for controlling weed in direct seeded rice,” explained Dr. Ashok Kumar, IRRI coordinator of the  CSISA Odisha hub. “Training of input dealers and service providers on herbicides could also be helpful.”

While the majority of participants opined that the large-scale adoption of the technology was limited by lack of awareness and availability of the equipment, agriculture officials emphasized nursery enterprise development could enable a wider dissemination of mechanical tranplanters.  Service providers can avail of the government’s subsidy scheme for purchasing trays for rice mat nurseries and provide service for  nursery and paddy transplanter. Current existing trained service providers can also target selected villages to increase awareness of mechanical transplanters, which in turn will increase their enterprise.

The traveling seminars and interactive meetings were organized by CSISA in collaboration with the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project coordinated by IRRI and the state’s Department of Agriculture.  Similar efforts to demonstrate and out-scale these technologies are being conducted in Khurda, Cuttack, and Jagatsinghapur in Puri Districts. (See also story in IRRI News)