Simple Water-Saving Method Has Increased Rice Yield
Parthasarathy, a farmer from Govindapuram village in Tirupur district, Tamil Nadu, won the Innovative Rice Farmer Award in 2015, for his use of drip irrigation in rice cultivation. Under the aegis of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Mr Parthasarathy, along with 23 other farmers, successfully managed to grow paddy, maize, and onions. The paddy yield was around 6 tonnes per hectare compared to India’s average of 2.5 tonnes.
Mr Parthasarathy shared, “We experienced a 15-20% improvement in paddy yield, with a water saving of 30-40% through drip irrigation.”
For long, it has been assumed that paddy can only be cultivated using large volumes of stagnant water.
Large-scale adoption of this technology can be a potential game-changer for paddy cultivation in the country, given the unpredictability of the monsoon and the poor replenishment rate of groundwater.
India has the world’s largest area under rice cultivation, accounting for 20% of the global white rice production. The crop constitutes 42% of the total food grain output of India. Rice is traditionally cultivated through flood irrigation and consumes 85% of the water used in agriculture.
According to a 2010 UNESCO report, the water footprint (ratio of total volume of water used to the quantity of production) of India’s rice production is 2020 m3 per tonne, compared to the global average of 1,325 m3 per tonne.
With depleting water tables and eight states being declared drought-affected in 2016-17, technologies with water-saving potential are the need of the hour. Drip irrigation can be a potential solution in this regard, even though it is not a conventional practice in rice cultivation.
Using drip irrigation for rice production can provide benefits by reducing both water and methane footprints.
Drip irrigation delivers water, through pipes, along the rows of crops, directly to the root zone. It has the potential to reduce water consumption by 50% and also increase yield by 25-30%. It keeps the soil saturated with water, eliminating the need for standing water in the field. Studies have indicated that keeping the soil wet may result in equivalent or higher yields than standing water conditions.