Mechanized seeding helps Odisha farmer do away with fallows and increase the productivity of his rice-based cropping system

 Bidhan K. Mohapatra, Ashok Kumar, Wasim Iftikar, and N.C. Banik   |  

Bikram Keshari Parida volunteered to conduct mechanized seeding using various high-yielding crop varieties and hybrids and improved agronomy in his fields. Many farmers from different parts of Odisha visit his farm to learn about the innovative technologies he adopted. 

Bikram Keshari Parida volunteered to conduct mechanized seeding using various high-yielding crop varieties and hybrids and improved agronomy in his fields. Many farmers from different parts of Odisha visited his fields to learn about the innovative technologies he adopted. (Photo: IRRI India)

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The rice-based lowland rainfed agroecologies of Odisha are plagued with several crop production problems. Rice farmers in the state, who are mostly small and marginal holders and resource-poor, face increasing production costs, lower productivity, labor scarcity, low mechanization, drudgery, water shortage, and field fallows during the rabi season after the kharif rice crop, among others.

Because farmers and other stakeholders need innovations to address the said issues,  the Government of Odisha launched Precision direct-seeded rice-based diversification systems for transforming labour requirement, yields, and profitability of smallholder farmers in Odisha (DSR-Odisha) in 2021.

The DSR-Odisha Project, led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI),  is currently being implemented in the districts of Bargarh, Kalahandi, Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, and Puri, in collaboration with various partners.

A farmer with a vision
Bikram Keshari Parida, a 50-year-old man who has been farming for about 30 years, has always been inclined towards new technologies and innovations and has been attending various events promoting modern crop establishment methods organized under the DSR-Odisha project. Mr. Parida volunteered to conduct mechanized seeding using various high-yielding crop varieties and hybrids and improved agronomy in his fields.

Initially, he opted for the mechanical seeding of the high-yielding Virat green gram on 2.4 hectares at his farm during the 2021-22 rabi season. The seed yield of Virat, on average, was 1.09 tons.

Mr. Parida also compared the performance of different green gram varieties, including Virat, Sikha, HUM16, MH421, and Desi (a local mung bean), on 0.4 ha of his farm. In a head-to-head comparison, he harvested 1 t/ha of Virat, 1t/ha of Sikha,  1.2 t/ha of HUM16, 1.2 t/ha MH421, and 0.5 t/ha of  Desi.

Many farmers and stakeholders from different parts of Odisha visited his fields and interacted with him to learn about the innovative technologies he adopted. The resulting productivity levels from the interventions proved to be an eye-opener for him and neighboring farmers because his land, along with vast fields around, was left to fallow during that period.

Encouraged by his successful attempt, he planned to grow his rice crop using the mechanized direct seeding (mech-DSR) method during the 2022 kharif season. He used high-yielding inbred varieties   (Sarala, CR-1014, MTU-1064) and hybrids (Arize 6444 Gold, Arize Dhani, Arize 8433-DT) introduced by the project. All rice varieties under mechanized DSR performed extremely well but the hybrids had an edge.

Science-based proofs and economic rewards
We compared the rice cultivation practices at his farm; manual transplanting of Sarala using traditional management practice, and mechanized DSR using Arize Dhani and best management practices (see Table 1).

Table 1: Differences between traditional puddled rice transplanting with farmers’ practices and mechanized DSR with improved practices

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In addition, mech-DSR was simpler and less tedious; reduced labor, cost, and energy; and was more productive and profitable thanpuddled transplanted rice (PTR). Except for the cost of hybrid rice seed, all other costs in mech-DSR were lower than the farmer’s traditional practice.  Consequently, the cost of cultivation in mech-DSR was USD471.00/ha against USD 582.00/ha in PTR or 19% lower,

There was a clear-cut yield advantage in mech-DSR practice with 6.42 t/ha over PTR with 4.45 t/ha (44% increase). There was also a lower cost of production overall in mechanized DSR amounting to USD 73.00/ton compared with USD 131.00/ton in PTR (44% decrease).

Hence, Mr. Parida derived a profit of USD 1,124.00/ha from mech-DSR-based practices which was 115% more than the profit from PTR.

Green after gold

Instead of fallowing his field after harvesting his kharif rice crop, Mr. Parida decided to cultivate green gram in the following rabi season using mechanized seeding. (Photo: IRRI India)

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The most popular green gram varieties planted around his village in Delang Block Virat were the Sikha and the local variety desi muga. Many farmers still grow des muga using the traditional practice of broadcasting because of its taste and the higher demand for it. The variety also fetched a better price that is 8% higher than Sikha and Virat.

As he was already convinced and highly satisfied with the performance of mechanized seeded green gram at his farm during the 2021-22 rabi season, Mr. Parida decided to go for mechanized seeding of green gram during the following rabi (2022-23) after the rice he harvested using mech-DSR during the 2022 kharif.

Because the mechanically sown Arize Dhani is a medium-duration hybrid rice variety, Mr. Parida was able to harvest it one month earlier compared to the long-duration high-yielding Sarala. This led to an extended timeframe for cultivating following rabi crops by making use of residual soil moisture.

In the 2022-23 rabi season, we compared broadcasted desi muga using traditional management practices and mechanically sown Virat using best management practices at his farm.

The improved practices used for cultivating green gram under mechanized seeding incurred a 10% rise in the cost of cultivation over the traditional broadcast practice. However, the  1.2 t/ha (rice equivalent yield=3.6 t/ha) obtained from mechanized seeding of green gram was 107% higher than the traditional practice (0.6 t/ha). This resulted in 165% higher profit (USD 655.00/ha) than farmer’s traditional practice (USD 247.00/ha).

Based on Mr. Parida’s experience, we concluded that the adoption of mechanized seeding using potential cultivars and improved practices for the rice-green gram cropping system had a clear advantage in productivity and profitability. The system productivity increased from 6.3 t/ha to 10.0 t/ha (estimated based on rice equivalent yield) and the profitability increased from USD 769.00/ha to USD 1,779.00/ha.

These advantages are in addition to many other benefits, such as resource conservation, low carbon emissions, soil health, and nutritional security of mechanized seeding. If we consider the monetary benefits Mr. Parida earned from mechanized seeded green gram during the 2021-22 rabi season, and mech-DSR in the 2022 kharif, the overall system profits for the two cropping seasons would be significantly more evident.

Mr. Parida’s farm has emerged as a model for other farmers and stakeholders to learn something new and follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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