SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION AS A TOOL FOR INDIGENOUS SEED CONSERVATION AND ORGANIC SEED PRODUCTION
Authors: Senthil, K., Subhashini, S., Abarna, T. & Vijayalakshmi , K.
Key words: SRI, Organic farming, Seed production
In India, research is conducted at various levels to increase the rice productivity. Among the various methods of rice cultivation, the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) is gaining great popularity in recent days. Farmers in several parts of Tamil Nadu have adopted this method on a trial basis. Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) based in Tamil Nadu, India undertook a study to find the impact of SRI on indigenous seed production and organic seed production. The study was undertaken in the organic research farm of CIKS as well as in organic farmers' field associated with CIKS. The study showed that apart from increasing overall productivity, SRI offers scope for seed production--particularly for rare indigenous rice varieties. For organic cultivation, the indigenous varieties of rice are extremely suitable and problems with cultivation of indigenous varieties can be overcome with the use of SRI techniques.
The rice growing area has reduced from 2.8 million hectares to 2.1 million hectares in the Tamil Nadu state of India since the last 50 years. However, as far as the production is concerned, Tamil Nadu is in second position next to state of Punjab. To match the food productivity with the growing population, research is conducted at various levels to increase the rice productivity. Among the various methods of rice cultivation, the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) method is gaining great popularity in recent days. Farmers in several parts of Tamil Nadu have adopted this method on a trial basis. SRI is a method that has been introduced in agriculture to increase productivity. In this method of cultivation, techniques like transplanting of very young seedlings, transplanting seedlings with sufficient spacing, use of weeders to manage weeds etc. are adopted to increase the yield. Moreover use of inputs like seeds, irrigation water, manures is lessened. In general SRI is recommended along with the use of chemical fertilizers and the focus is to increase productivity. CIKS has been also promoting the practice among its organic farmers. Trainings and result demonstrations have been organized for this purpose. CIKS has also brought out a publication titled, “System of Rice Intensification—An introduction” in the year 2009 and was authored by its technical team. CIKS documents and evaluates the feedback of farmers on the adoption of this practice.
Earlier work of CIKS has shown that indigenous varieties grow well in organic farming condition. Besides this, indigenous varieties provide the basic genetic material for developing any other variety in future (Arumugasamy, S. et. al ., 2001). The major challenge with indigenous varieties is that, enough quantity of seeds is not available readily. It has to be sourced from different farmers who have been conserving it and then multiplied. Many varieties fulfill specific nutritional and other dietary needs. Till recent times, our Indian farmers have identified good quality seeds, crossed them to produce several other varieties and have preserved them. Indigenous varieties adapted to the local environmental conditions are fast disappearing (Arumugasamy, S. et. al ., 2002). There are many reasons why indigenous varieties are still conserved in spite of all odds. High yielding varieties are not suited to all farming conditions and there are situations where indigenous varieties are better suited. For example, in the alkaline soils of Tamil Nadu, an indigenous variety of Paddy called Kalarpalai alone can be cultivated (Vijayalakshmi, K. and A.V Balasubramanian, 2004).
Good quality seeds are extremely important in increasing the productivity of any crop. Currently, seed production in rice is fraught with several problems and farmers getting access to good quality seed is becoming a major issue. This is even more problematic in the case of organic seed production. Organic certification agencies insist during the process of certification that organic farmers should use seeds which are produced only through organic production methods. However there is dearth of organic seeds in the market. CIKS wanted to explore the feasibility of using SRI for organic seed production.
Objectives of the study
CIKS has an organic agricultural farm of 4.4 ha in Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu, India. During the samba season (September to February) of 2009, 94 indigenous rice varieties were grown in five cents under System of Rice Intensification. By this it was planned to evaluate the performance of indigenous rice under SRI. In the same season, three organic farmers grew ADT-43 variety of rice through SRI in Kanchipuram district in 0.6 ha and were registered with the Seed Certification Department of Government of Tamil Nadu, India. Through this the performance of organic rice seed production through SRI under farmers' condition was evaluated.
The following table illustrates the problems in conventional method of cultivation and the solutions that can be derived from SRI for indigenous rice seed production based on the results of the evaluation.
Table 1: Comparison of conventional and SRI method of cultivation for seed production.
It was also only through SRI that it was possible to document the characteristics of the indigenous rice varieties like height, thickness of the stem, number of tillers, length of the ear head, 1000 grain weight, age of the crop and yield. Thus it was evident that SRI method of cultivation under organic production method offers many advantages over conventional method when looked in the angle of seed production as well as yield estimation.
The farmers who had undertaken seed production of rice under organic method through SRI also reported satisfactory yield of 5.5 tons/ha of rice seed. CIKS had trained the farmers in seed production technology. The seeds thus produced had two certification namely; certification from the Seed Certification Department of the Government as well as organic certification from the organic certification agency, with which the farmers were registered. It was hailed as a first instance in the state of Tamil Nadu where seeds with double certification was produced.
The study in the CIKS organic farm and farmers' field showed that System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an effective tool for indigenous seed conservation as well as for organic seed production. There is an increase in demand for indigenous seeds of rice like Seeraga samba and Kitchili samba in the state of Tamil Nadu, India as the nutritional and other properties are now increasingly recognized. Nevertheless, there is dearth for good quality indigenous variety of rice seeds. Farmers who have conserved it could offer only limited quantity of seeds to those interested. In this context, SRI offers the scope to produce seeds under SRI with limited base material, which could then be multiplied. The evaluation also showed that SRI is effective for indigenous seed conservation also. Farmers' involved in commercial rice seed production through organic methods can effectively utilize SRI rather than conventional method.
The study opened further avenues for research like i) the need for evaluation about the decrease in lodging quality of indigenous rice varieties grown with SRI method ii) estimation of reduction age of rice plant under SRI cultivation iii) the need to confirm through experiments the decrease in pest and diseases through SRI cultivation.
1. Arumugasamy, S. et. al . 2001. Indigenous Rice Varieties. Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems. Chennai.
2. Arumugasamy, S. et. al . 2002. Indigenous Rice Varieties. 2002. Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems. Chennai.
3. Senthil, K. et. al ., 2009. System of Rice Intensification—An Introduction. Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems. Chennai. PP.2.
4. Vijayalakshmi, K and A.V. Balasubramanian. 2004. Seeds of Plenty Seeds of Hope. On-farm conservation of indigenous genetic resources—the Asian experience. PP.17. Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems. Chennai.