RICE SCIENCE TO FARMERS

Bhola Man Singh Basnet

halokhabar


​​​​Rice scenario

Rice is the predominant cereal crop in South Asia and Nepal. As per the estimate of Fiscal Year 2018/2019, the rice crop was grown in 14,69,545 hectares with the production of 51,51,925 metric tons and the productivity was 3.506 ton/ha. The preliminary estimate of rice production for FY 2019/2020 will be about 5.6 million metric tons. There are less possibilities of bringing more lands into production. Therefore, we have to increase the productivity per hectare per day by knowledge-, science-, technology and innovation-based farming.

The promising rice varieties plus successful technologies generated by agriculture research play the pivotal role. Nepal. so far has released more than one hundred rice varieties (except hybrid one) with full package of practices within the span of more than fifty  (>50) years. The coverage by improved rice varieties in Nepal is 96%. Some of the popular rice varieties among farmers are Radha-4, Radha-12, Sabitri, Bindeswori, Hardinath-1, Sukkadhan 3, Hardinath-3, Hardinath-5 in Tarai, Khumal-4, Khumal-11, Chainung-242 in Mid-hills and Chandannath-3, Lekali 1, Lekali 3 in High-hills.

Nepal is also the highest altitude (9,000-10,000 ft) in the world (Chhumchaur, Jumla) where rice is cultivated. The modern varieties can express their yield potentiality only when recommended packages are practiced. Quality seeds alone can contribute 15-20% in yield. Seed selection can be done by following the specific gravity principle. Early paddy and Boro (winter) rice can be used for increasing rice yield by utilizing the higher intensity of solar radiation i.e using sun to end hunger or enhance/boost rice productivity.

The system of rice intensification (SRI) is the other agronomic manipulation which can increase rice yield. The plant growth regulators (PGRs) can also be used for increasing rice productivity. However, we should not forget the environmentally-friendly and sustainability issues while increasing the productivity and production. Thai is why these days we say " Evergreen Revolution " and not  " Green Revolution " only. It is said " Grow Paddy with Soil Fertility Wheat with Fertilizers " and also said  " Healthy Seedlings are responsible at least for half of the yields ".

The author of this article (Basnet) was instrumental for declaring  Asadh 15 (Nepalese culture of eating curd/yoghurt plus beaten rice ) Nepalese Calendar of every year as the  " National Rice Day " by the Nepalese Government. In 2075 B.S., Nepal had celebrated the Fifteenth National Rice Day on 15th Asar 2075 (29th June 2018). Because of good performance of Nepal during International Year of Rice - 2004, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in its Rice Today (Vol.3, No.3, 2004) had written one article mentioning " Year Achieves High-Profile in Nepal ".

In fiscal year 2016-2017, Nepal had produced the historical rice production i.e 52,30,327  metric tons. There is about 50% contribution of rice in total food. Rice security is food security in Nepal. The national economy depends on rice production itself. For example, as per the data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the GDP growth of Nepal in the current fiscal year is 6.5%. There is approximately 21% share of rice in Nepal's agriculture GDP and 7% in GDP.

Rice is one of the most important and number one cereal crops in Nepal. Not only is rice a key source of food, it is also a major employer and source of income for the poor. The world food problem is created because of urbanization, crop diversification, fallow land, low investment in agricultural research and development, climate change, conversion of food crops like maize into bio-fuels. China has banned for the conversion of maize into bio-fuels. Rice is also the staple food for more than 50% of the world's population (3.5 billion).

Moreover, more than 90% rice is produced as well as consumed in Asian countries. So, the trade of rice is only about 6-7%. China and India used to produce about 50% of the Asia's rice production. So, rice brings the Asians together. The present global rice production is about 485 million tons. In 2007-2008, there was global food crisis but few months later global financial crisis emerged and it eclipsed the food crisis. Our constitution says people have right to food too. The United Nations Organization (UNO) had also declared 2004, as the "International Year of Rice " with the theme "Rice is Life".

Government of Nepal after 2004 also had declared each 15th day of Asar as the “ National Rice Day “. United Nations also had declared Rice as the “ Crop of the Year “ in 1966 with the theme “ Freedom from Hunger “. Because that time “ Hunger was a Big Story in Asia “. There are less possibilities of bringing more lands into production. Therefore, we have to increase the productivity per hectare per day by the successful technological interventions.

The internal rate of return (IRR) in agriculture research is very high. It is said: to get success, there should be " Research push and Market pull "..Rice seeds can be selected based on the principle of specific gravity. Early paddy and Boro (winter) rice can be used for increasing rice yield by utilizing higher intensity of solar radiation especially after flowering. The system of rice intensification (SRI) is the other way of agronomic manipulation which can increase rice yield. The donor's priority in Nepal is peace. But they can't bypass agriculture-sector because " Hungry man is no peaceful man ",  " Hungry stomach is restless one " and “ Hungry man is angry man “.

      Had the yield of rice remained at its pre-green revolution level of 1.9 t/ha, current production would have required more than double the current rice land area and 50% of the forest areas would have been reduced. In theory, three to five thousand litres of water is needed to produce one kilogram of paddy. Drought tolerant rice varieties with less water consuming agronomical manipulations are needed to combat with global warming. For examples, Sukkhadhan 1, Sukkhadhan 2, Sukkhadhan 3, Sukkhadhan 4, Sukkhadhan 5, Sukkhadhan 6 (both for drought and submerged conditions) rice varieties are already recommended for drought conditions and Swarna Sub1, Sambha Masuli Sub1 and Ciherang Sub1 are for submerged conditions.

     In other words, food security, nutrition security, profitability and sustainability are the major issues at present and future.

 

Conclusion

     At last but not the least, because of global food issues plus increased food prices, the author of this article would like to strongly request Government of Nepal to form immediately, A High-level National Food Security Mission, involving field-hardened experts with proven track-record too including concrete plan of action with fixed priorities and assured budgetary allocation so as to cope with burning problem of food grains in the country. Food self-sufficiency is the urgent demand of present time. Government of India during global food crisis had banned for exporting wheat and non-basmati rice in 2007-08 for 4 years. If Nepal is not self-reliant in food grains, the situation came in 2007-08, whereby we cannot buy rice even if we have money in our pockets. We should not depend on others even to live.

  • Bhola Man Singh Basnet

Senior Rice Expert

Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Retd.

       

 

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