The East India Plateau (EIP), comprising major parts of Jharkhand and some parts of adjoining West Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, is one of the poorest regions of India. It is characterized by high but unevenly distributed rainfall (1,100–1,600 mm, 80 percent received from June to September), frequent and sometimes long dry spells within the monsoon, poor irrigation, high runoff and soil erosion, less fertile soil, terraced mono-cropped paddy lands, and subsistence agriculture. Low crop yield results in food insecurity and endemic poverty. Rice is the staple food crop of this region and farmers traditionally rely on erratic and seasonal rains for cultivating the crop. High dependency on a single crop makes the population highly vulnerable. Given the challenging environment of the region, PRADAN, since 2012, has been facilitating the farmers to cultivate paddy crop using better modern techniques like ‘Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR)’ in the West Singhbhum and Bokaro districts of Jharkhand.
For this line-sown DSR initiative, PRADAN was guided by scientists from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR ), the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVRDC) and the Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (AC WADA M).
APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Several measures were undertaken to encourage the farmers to adopt the technology. For instance –
1. Cluster-level field exposure visits-cum-interactions were held with DSR host farmers
2. Community resource persons were trained to support farmers
3. Orientation programmes were held for various stakeholders including the Panchayati Raj institution (PRI) representatives and the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (AT MA) staff Promoting Direct Seeding of Rice.
4. Orientation programmes were held for various stakeholders including the Panchayati Raj institution (PRI) representatives and the Agricultural Technology
Management Agency (AT MA) staff
5. Participation of tool fabricators/ suppliers/ vendors was encouraged at the Cluster-level melas to increase the outreach and to ensure availability of implements
6. Field-level guidance and support were sought from experienced farmers and expert service providers for SHG members in new areas
7. Awareness was created through flex boards, leaflets, photographs and videos
DSR method Line-sown DSR is a modified method of paddy cultivation in which sorted and treated seeds of short-to-medium duration are hand sown in lines made with a ‘multi-teeth marker’ before the onset of monsoon. A line-to-line spacing of 10” and seed-to-seed spacing of about 6” to 9” is maintained in this process. DSR method eliminates
dependence on the onset of monsoon for sowing. Within 15 – 20 days of sowing or germination, an immediate weeding and thinning is required as the seeds start growing after rains, followed by the second round of weeding after around 25–30 days. DSR method involves reduced labor requirements in transplantation and weeding. Also, the crop comparatively matures early (about 15-20 days earlier than transplanted crops). The soil structure is also improved as no puddling is required. The seed rate gets reduced by 50 percent.
Some challenges faced in DSR method are:
• Ensuring affordable quality implements for line-seeding and weeding tools;
• Risk of a wet harvest that can affect the mature rice crop in the fields or on the threshing floor;
• Damage from birds and rats, especially when only a few farmers adopt DSR. The few maturing fields in the whole area could attract all the birds, rats, and
squirrels in the area; and,
• Obtaining good-quality short and medium-duration (90-120 days) seeds in some areas.