FARMER'S NOTEBOOK It meets the growers’ needs and improves paddy production

Paddy cultivation is fast becoming less remunerative for farmers owing to high cultivation cost coupled with labour scarcity. This is forcing many farmers to leave their fields fallow.

“Introduction of suitable locally adoptable technology like integrated crop management (ICM) would be an ideal option to make paddy cultivation more remunerative.

“The technique evolves the integrated use of compatible technologies that meet the farmers’ needs and improve their productivity and income,” says Dr. C.P. Robert, Programme Co-ordinator, Christian agency for rural development, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.

Best practices

“ICM integrates all possible best management practices. Seed treatment is done to ensure discarding half filled and chaffy grains, and the seeds are soaked in saline water (500 gm of common salt mixed in 10 litres of water).

All the floating seeds are removed and those settling down at the bottom are taken out, washed in fresh water and used for incubation. This ensures good quality and robust seedlings for planting,” says Dr. Robert.

In traditional practices the seedlings are raised in an ordinary nursery bed while in ICM the seedlings of locally adaptable varieties of rice are raised in a modified mat nursery at the rate of 10 to 12 kg of seeds /ha which saves the seed rates by 85 per cent as compared to 60-85 kg/ha seeds requirement for a traditional nursery. Preparation of mat nursery is very simple;

The seedlings are raised in a 4 cm layer of soil mix (80 per cent top soil and 20 per cent well decomposed manure) spread over a 300 gauge thick and 1 metre wide plastic sheet.

“We can also use coconut fronds and banana leaf instead of plastic sheet, which in turn reduces cost of raising seedlings.

The seeds, after sowing in the bed, are covered with a thin layer of soil mix to maintain the moisture level to avoid seed drying , the mat nursery is covered (mulched) with paddy straw or banana leaves for 3-4 days,” says Dr. Robert.

Transplantation

The bed needs watering regularly until it is ready for transplanting. In case of traditional practices the seedlings of 25-30 days age are transplanted at a very close spacing (10 x15cm) and 5 to 6 seedlings are planted per hill.

The unique feature of ICM is that only 2 seedlings, which are 14-18 days old are used and are planted at a spacing of 20x20 cm.

In case of transplanting to counter act labour shortage we can resort to mechanized transplanting by using machine transplanter which saves 90 per cent of labour requirement as against 60 labour days required in manual transplanting for a hectare. Using paddy transplanter, one hectare can be covered in seven hours, thus ensuring timely planting in larger area, according to him.

Seed treatment

The incubated seeds are then treated with azospirillum, at 500gms per 10 kg seeds and left for 30 minutes before sowing.

Use of azospirillum and leaf colour chart for deciding the time and quantity of nitrogenous fertilizers could reduce the nitrogenous fertilizer by 25 per cent.

Site specific nutrient management is recommended based on soil analysis. Integrated use of organic manure along with chemical fertilizer is also being suggested. “Based on use of leaf colour chart nitrogenous fertilizer can be used as and when required,” he adds.

The practice of intermittent irrigation will save water as well as ehancing yield. It saves over 50 per cent irrigation water. An integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) practice is incorporated by use of bio control agents and natural enemies for control of disease and pest.

Common weeds can be effectively controlled by the use of herbicide application.

“The field is drained prior to herbicide application and subsequently re-flooded after 48 hour of herbicide application, which totally controls the weeds. Manual weeding requires 62-65 labour /ha which cost Rs 8,125/ha while the use of herbicide cost only Rs.750/ha” (includes labour) explains Dr. Robert.

Bio - agents

The bacterial bio agents like pseudomonas can be used to effectively control different infestations affecting paddy crop. Similarly, the use of predatory insects in the field has proven to be effective to control the different pests affecting the crop.

Various extension approaches like training, on farm testing, and field demonstration were used to transfer the technology to farmers.

The technology today is being well accepted by the farmers in Kerala due to its economic viability.

For more details contact Dr. C.P. Robert, Programme Co-ordinator, CARD-Krishi Vigyan Kendra-Pathanamthitta District, (Farm Science Centre,Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR), Govt. of India) ,Kolabhagam Post Office, Tiruvalla(Via),Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, phone: 0469 2662094/2661821( Extn-11/12).