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West Bengal farmers learn more on drought-tolerant rice varieties and their management

posted Dec 15, 2016, 11:43 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎
by Ashish Kumar Srivastava

The International Rice Research Institute and Rice Research Station-Chinsurah (government of West Bengal) jointly organized a one-day farmers’ meeting-program on “Drought-tolerant rice varieties and conforming management in West Bengal” at the Zonal Drought-Resistant Paddy Research Station (ZDRPRS), Hathwara, Purulia, on 26 September 2016.

Fifty-five farmers from Purulia I, Purulia II, and Arsha blocks of Purulia District attended the meeting. The meeting focused on providing information regarding newly available stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) and management practices such as crop establishment, nursery raising, main field management, and weed management, and targeting rice fallow to improve system productivity. 

Mr. U.S. Ray, assistant botanist, ZDRPRS, welcomed the chief guest, Dr. M.C. Dhara, joint director agriculture (Rice Division), other delegates, and the farmers. In his address to the farmers, Dr. Dhara emphasized the importance of STRVs in raising the productivity of the rainfed environment of Purulia District. Undulated land is a typical characteristic of Purulia’s agricultural land. Although this year more than normal rain has been received in Purulia, the undulated land makes it difficult to use the excess rainwater for the crop. Suitable short-duration drought-tolerant rice varieties will be a boon to poor marginal farmers to harness the productivity potential of these areas. 

Mr. Susanta Dutta, assistant director of agriculture (information) of Purulia District, gave a brief history of the changing cropping patterns of Purulia. He informed the farmers of the initiative taken by the government of West Bengal to improve the productivity potential in these rain-deficit areas. The government of India and the government of West Bengal, in close association with IRRI, have been continuously disseminating seeds of Sahbhagi Dhan, DRR42 (IR64-Drt1), and DRR44 through the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) for the past four years. Several progressive farmers had already started using these STRVs instead of the common local landraces/cultivars and they have doubled their production and household income. 

Dr. Ashish Kumar Srivastava (standing in above photo), assistant scientist (physiology), provided an overview of agronomic management practices for these newly released STRVs. He emphasized that matching management practices can produce 1 to 1.5 t/ha additional yield over these STRVs when grown using existing management practices. Dr. Somnath Saha, agronomist, pulse and oil seed research, Berhampore, provided an overview of the impact assessment of EC-IFAD drought activities in Purulia. He explained how the resource-poor farmers of neighboring villages were targeted and STRVs were distributed with information on management practices to them. Plots with local varieties/landraces were also kept to highlight the effect of STRVs and conforming management over traditional varieties when grown using farmers' practices. STRVs in combination with crop establishment methods such as dry/wet direct-seeded rice (DSR) and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) benefited the farmers a lot. 

Mr. Kaushik Maji, assistant director agriculture, Arsha block, shared an overview of EC-IFAD on-farm activities in Arsha block. Mr. M.K. Bhowmick, assistant agronomist, RRS-Chinsurah, informed the farmers about weed management in DSR. Appropriate doses of pre- and postemergence herbicides should be used as per the recommendation in the field. Mr. Manoranjan Jana, assistant botanist, RRS-Chinsurah, provided information regarding the availability of STRVs in West Bengal. Mr. Rajpati Prasad Mahato, Krishi Karmadhakshya, Purulia II, shared an update on government of India and government of West Bengal initiatives for farmers’ welfare. He emphasized the Pradanmantri Sichai Yojna (Prime Minister Irrigation Scheme) and crop insurance.

These deliberations were very useful and helped the farmers become acquainted with new advances in agricultural research and development. The session concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr. U.S. Ray.