The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) supported initiative ‘Plant Direct – Dry Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) for the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India’ – was launched in collaboration with IRRI-ICAR (International Rice Research Institute, Philippines – Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi) at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, Friday.
The session was chaired by PAU V-C Dr Satbir Singh Gosal and joined by distinguished scientists, including Dr Hans Bhardwaj, platform leader (Rice Breeding Innovations Platform), IRRI; Dr Jean Balie, director general, IRRI; Dr Jeet Ram, director research, Haryana Agricultural University; Dr Renee Lafitee, director, crops research and development, BMGF among others.
Dr Gosal said that it was developed and recommended by PAU in 2020 to reduce water footprints in rice cultivation. In this technique, pre-sowing irrigation is applied and primed seed is sown in a Tar-Wattar field preferably using Lucky Seed Drill.
A major departure from the conventional dry-DSR, delayed first irrigation applied at three weeks after sowing (21 days) offers higher savings (15-20 percent) in irrigation water, lesser incidence of iron deficiency as roots go deeper, lesser weed germination, wider soil adaptability and provides yield/profit similar to puddle transplanted rice, he observed.
Unveiling the objectives of BMGF in agricultural development, Dr Renee Lafitte mentioned that the foundation is driven by the belief that all lives have equal value and that everyone has a right to live a healthy, productive life. Farmers need to become more productive, using sustainable approaches that respect limits on natural resources and the need to preserve biodiversity and fragile ecosystems, she emphasized. According to her, the potential for farmer-led progress is substantial.
Dr Gary Atlin stressed the need for evolving water-efficient rice management systems to stabilize the critical component of the declining water table in the Indian agricultural system. He listed several advantages of DSR like savings on irrigation water, reduction in labor and drudgery by eliminating seedling uprooting and transplanting, lessened cultivation time, energy, and cost, faster maturation and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
In a video message, Dr Jean Balie highlighted the vulnerability of rice production to the negative impacts of climate change and, paradoxically, it being a contributing factor to climate change. He pointed out that rice cultivation is a leading driver of habitat loss in wetlands and forests, uses one-third of the world’s freshwater, and is responsible for 10 percent of man-made methane emissions globally. Initiatives like DSR and short-duration varieties ensure water efficiency, reduce labour requirement, mitigate pollution, increase drought resilience, accelerate cropping intensity and enhance the farmers’ income, he added.