Rice, a major crop in Andhra Pradesh, is cultivated using water from borewells, tanks or open wells. Since the crop grows in standing water ground water depletion is usually high especially during summer.

In addition to the water shortage, non-availability of labour on time is also increasing the cost of production, forcing farmers to give up rice cultivation citing low productivity and high labour costs as reasons.

Different approach

A different look at newer production methods that are relatively cost effective and use water more productively becomes imperative against the backdrop of the deepening water crisis and dwindling productivity under the inundation method of rice cultivation.

SRI (systematic rice intensification) is a proven methodology for comprehensively managing resources — changing the way land, seeds, water, nutrients and human labour are used.

“But in present times even SRI has some practical problems. The cono weeder which is an important tool in the cultivation practices is too heavy for pulling in the fields by the farmers. The other problem area is transplanting the seedlings from the nursery to the main field, which is quite labour intensive. With these in mind the Rashtiya Seva Samithi (Rass) — Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Chittoor district has slightly modified the practices using a fibre-bodied 8-rowed paddy seeder (drum seeder) for sowing the seeds and modified the weeder in such a way that it runs between the space in (20 cm) between the two paddy rows,” says Mr. C.Manohar, Programme Coordinator at the institute.

With the assistance of NABARD the institute organised capacity building activities like training programmes on modified practices to create awareness and motivate farmers to adopt the technology.

Field visits

Exposure visits and field days were organised to showcase the performance of the technology and finally to disseminate the same among the farming communities in different parts of the district.

“About 60 eight-rowed paddy seeders and 300 conoweeders were purchased and kept in the homes of master trainers in the villages and at the office of the agricultural officer. Farmers who wanted to take up this cultivation could contact the agricultural officer or facilitator for the drum seeder and weeder and return them after completion,” says Mr. Manohar.

“Timely availability of the drum seeders and weeders are an important step in this practice. Farmers should be able to source the machines on time. That is why we have ensured that apart from the agriculture office the machines are also available in their respective villages. Otherwise it becomes a problem for the grower to get a good yield. Growers were also supplied with pre-emergence herbicide for weed management,” he adds.

The institute published a pamphlet on direct seeding technology in Telugu and distributed it to farmers to get their feedback on this. Five facilitators were recruited in this project. In addition to this, KVK also trained ten master trainers and their services were utilized for sowing, weed management etc in the project area.

Advisory services

“Both facilitators and master trainers not only helped the farmers with modified technology but also provided other advisory services like weather, pest and disease management, water management, weed management etc. through the Kissan mobile service of the institute. We started the project during rabi 2010 season and completed it in kharif 2013 season,” says S. Sreenivasulu, subject matter specialist. Demonstrations of this modified SRI method were conducted in 140 villages in the district. Results from the data of three previous years collected showed that the average yield obtained in modified SRI method was 2,574 kg per acre, whereas it was 2,325 kg in the traditional method. About 11 per cent yield increase was observed in the modified SRI method than in the traditional method.

Another advantage

An additional advantage was reduction in cultivation cost. It is also observed that the cost of cultivation is reduced by about Rs.4,000-5,000 per acre in this method due to skipping of practices like nursery raising and manual transplanting. Duration of the crop is also reduced by 7-10 days in modified SRI method compared to conventional practice.

For more details interested farmers contact Mr. C.Manohar, Programme Coordinator, RASS-Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Renigunta Mandal, Tirupati, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, email: arkvk@yahoo.co.in, Mobile: 09441532150.

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