High costs may hit rice farming

  • Farmer indebtedness rises further

    Farmers and farming are under pressure due to soaring cultivation and living costs amid a fear of heavy rains and floods that usually occur in summer and damage crops.

    Many cultivators, burdened with high-interest loans due to years of low prices and disastrous weather events, fell into further indebtedness for taking high-interest loans to cope with the economic crisis not seen in years.

    Farmers and farming are under pressure due to soaring cultivation and living costs amid a fear of heavy rains and floods that usually occur in summer and damage crops.

    Many cultivators, burdened with high-interest loans due to years of low prices and disastrous weather events, fell into further indebtedness for taking high-interest loans to cope with the economic crisis not seen in years.

    ‘I will need to irrigate and fertilise my rice fields another round before the harvest,’ said Arman, who could not clear his debt from the past year from another lender.     

    In the six months until February, according to a recent study, the average household expenditure increased by 13 per cent, making the job of growing crops all the more difficult for millions of poverty-stricken farmers, said agricultural economists and agriculturists.

    About 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s nearly two crore farmers are smallholders, many of them owning no land at all, representing the section of people who are overwhelmingly depending — three in every four — on loans to cope with the rising inflation.

    The cost of every agricultural input — seed, fertiliser, pesticide, labour and irrigation – went up substantially, said government agricultural officers, research bodies and farmers, raising the fear of driving farmers to non-rice crop cultivation requiring less inputs.

    ‘The strange thing about Bangladesh’s farmers is that they never fail to cultivate. But there is a limit to farmers’ ability,’ Saiful Islam, agricultural economist, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, told New Age on Monday.

    Despite a dramatic rise in all expenses, the boro cultivation target — which was about 50 lakh hectares — was achieved, he said.

    ‘But farmers must take home their full harvest. A natural disaster or any other disruptions could be unbearable for many farmers,’ said Saiful.

    The weather this year has so far acted far better than expected, but frequent power cuts affected irrigation intervening in the cultivation. 

    Farming, particularly rice farming, is labelled a losing business for growers, who consistently adopt innovative ways such as migrating to cities during the lean season to work as rickshaw pullers for additional income for subsidising their farming.

    But farming became further challenging after the electricity price was increased three times and the gas price once since January.

    The cultivation of boro, accounting for about 60 per cent of the country’s some 4-crore-tonne rice production, relies heavily on irrigation with water lifted by electric pumps and urea fertiliser produced using natural gas.

    According to the Rangpur division agricultural extension office, boro cultivation cost saw an average increase of Tk 5,000 per bigha in the eight northern districts under the division.

    ‘The government provided 25,000 farmers with free seeds and fertiliser to help them cope with cost shocks,’ said Mahtab Uddin, additional director, DAE, Rangpur, home to more than 26 lakhs farmers, on Saturday.

    For growing boro in each bigha of land, a farmer in the region spent Tk 13,600 this year, following an increase of about Tk 5,000 in the cultivation cost, compared to the past year.

    The cost of irrigating one bigha of land climbed to Tk 1,500 this year from Tk 1,200 spent in the past year. The Rangpur division agricultural extension office estimated that farmers in the north would have to spend Tk 17 crore extra for irrigation.

    The cost of a kilogram of seed, on the other hand, rose to Tk 350 from Tk 200, according to the Rangpur divisional office of the Agricultural Extension Department.

    Compared to the past year, fertiliser cost per bigha increased by Tk 1,500 while pesticide cost went up by Tk 400, among others expenses, including those for labour and mechanised grinding and harvesting.

    The production cost of a kilogram of boro paddy increased by nearly 10 per cent, according to an estimate of the BRRI, to Tk 30.70 from Tk 28.11 a year ago.

    ‘The prices of rice and its byproducts such as broken rice and rice hulls will increase as well, increasing cattle-rearing cost,’ said Saiful Islam.

    The Department of Agricultural Marketing, however, estimated the production cost of a kilogram of boro paddy to be Tk 28.40, up from Tk 26.52 in the past year.

    The DAM estimated the price of a kilogram of rice to be Tk 41.82 this year, up from the past year’s price of Tk 39.03.

    The price of a kilogram of wheat has been estimated to go up by 9 per cent to Tk 30.93 this year from the past year’s Tk 28.33.

    The Department of Agricultural Extension, which has its estimate of the production cost of rice, did not share the estimate.

    ‘The increase in expense is normal, particularly when the country is undergoing rapid development,’ said Badal Chandra Biswas, director general, DAE, on Sunday.

    Agriculturists predicted that high expenses could encourage rice storage. Farmers generally store 40 per cent of their output for their consumption.

    ‘Farming cost just doubled but it is not reflected in the official account,’ said Ainal Haque, a farmer at Bara Bari, Sadar upazila, Rangpur.

    Farmers in the north-eastern haor region, where a fifth of the country’s boro paddy is grown, are worriedly waiting to start reaping their paddy in days, before flash floods strike.

    The Bangladesh Meteorological Department warned about a brief flood in the northeast at the end of this month. Boro harvest in the haor region could take a month to complete. 

    Agriculture, providing employment for 55 per cent of the country’s workforce and accounting for 12 per cent of the GDP, is crucial in holding Bangladesh’s economy together and it played a vital role in tackling the Covid pandemic.

    ‘All subsidies should be diverted to agriculture,’ said Abdul Bayes, who taught economics at Jahangirnagar University, on Tuesday.

    Adding that inflation could be as high as 20 per cent in places, Bayes advised the government to increase rice procurement from farmers and ensure legitimate prices.

    ‘Agriculture has to be saved,’ he said.

  • Mekong Delta to expand shrimp-rice farming

  • Farmers adopting the shrimp-rice model in the Mekong Delta should seek to adapt to climate change by using advanced techniques and linking up with processing companies to develop value chains, experts have said.

    Shrimp-rice farming fields in Bac Lieu province. (Photo: VNA)

    Bac Lieu (VNS/VNA) - Farmers adopting the shrimp-rice model in the Mekong Delta should seek to adapt to climate change by using advanced techniques and linking up with processing companies to develop value chains, experts have said.

    The delta, the country’s largest producer of rice and seafood, has been using the model for decades since it is suitable for application in coastal areas, which are normally affected by saltwater intrusion in the dry season.

    Farmers grow rice in the wet season and breed shrimp in the dry season on the same fields.

    There were nearly 190,000ha under shrimp-rice farming last year, mostly in Bac Lieu, Ca Mau and Kien Giang provinces, according to the Directorate of Fisheries.

    The coastal areas have optimal conditions for the model and farmers earn 60 – 70 million VND (2,600-3,000 USD) per hectare from it annually.

    Both the shrimp and rice harvested under the model are clean and preferred by consumers because farmers use few chemicals.

    Speaking at a seminar held in Bac Lieu last week, Nguyen Trung Hieu, deputy director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the positive results notwithstanding there were lingering difficulties such as the impacts of climate change, small scale of production and lack of infrastructure.

    Linkages had been created between stakeholders in the model but the process is tardy, he said.

    Participants told the seminar about other problems like the lack of irrigation works, advanced farming techniques, brand names, and reliable markets.

    The delta did not have a sufficient supply of shrimp seeds for the model and had to be bought from outside, they said.

    Speaking about the expansion of the model, they said it depended on the Government’s plans, investment by local provinces and the participation of companies in developing value chains for it.

    The delta, which comprises 12 provinces and Can Tho city, plans to have 300,000ha under the model by 2030.

    Tran Cong Khoi, deputy head of the directorate’s fisheries department, said to achieve the target, besides having quality seeds, farmers should also use quality farming techniques and have effective linkages with other stakeholders.

    The provinces should build sufficient irrigation works to meet the requirements of the model, he added.

  • Profit from Rice Farming Tumbles Nearly 40 pct on Increased Costs

  • This file photo taken Feb. 15, 2023, shows farmers planting rice in the city of Icheon, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

    SEOUL, March 30 (Korea Bizwire) — Rice production costs in South Korea rose 9.3 percent on-year in 2022 due mainly to soaring prices of fertilizers, causing net profit from rice farming to sink nearly 40 percent, data showed Thursday.

    Farmers spent 31,631 won (US$24.24) to produce 20 kilograms of rice last year, up 2,689 won from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

    The cost of cultivating rice on a 1,000-square-meter paddy also jumped 7.9 percent on-year to 854,461 won last year.

    The growth in costs came as fertilizer prices needed per 1,000-square-meter paddy spiked 71.4 percent on-year to 89,083 won on soaring global raw material prices last year, while rice output inched down over unfavorable weather conditions, according to the statistics agency.

    Accordingly, net income of rice farmers reached 317,000 won per 1,000-square-meter paddy in 2022, down 36.8 percent from the previous year. Last year’s figure is the lowest since 2017, when net profit stood at 283,000 won.

    Rice is a key staple food for Koreans, but its consumption has been on a steady decline in recent decades due mainly to changes in diet and eating habits.

  • Army handed over 45,000 acres for ‘corporate farming’

  • ISLAMABAD: The caretaker government of Punjab has signed an agreement to hand over at least 45,267 acres of land in three districts — Bhakkar, Khushab, and Sahiwal — of the province to the Pakistan Army for ‘Corporate Agriculture Farming’.

    According to a document, the military’s land directorate wrote to the Punjab chief secretary, Board of Revenue and secretaries of the agriculture, forest, livestock and irrigation departments for handing over of 42,724-acre land in tehsils Kaloor Kot and Mankera in Bhakkar, 1,818 acres in tehsils Quaidabad and Khushab in Khushab, and 725 acres in tehsil Chichawatni of Sahiwal.

    The letter referred to a notification of the Punjab government dated Feb 20, 2023, and a joint venture (JV) agreement of March 8. It reminded that “while signing the JV management agreement on March 8, it was decided that state lands immediately required for the project be handed over to Pakistan Army.”

    According to informed sources, the JV has been signed between the military, the Punjab government, and private firms dealing with corporate farming.

    Insiders claim military will ‘reap no benefit’; 40pc of revenue to go to Punjab, 20pc for R&D

    Speaking about the salient features of the proposed project, the sources said that the Punjab government will provide the land while the army will utilise its resources and retain the management of the project. The private sector, on the other hand, will invest and provide auxiliary support, including the supply of fertilisers.

    Military sources confirmed this development and said that the army was “not taking over the ownership of the land as it will remain the property” of the Punjab government. “The intervention of the army will provide a coherent administrative structure,” the sources added.

    They said that the land in question is mostly barren, uncultivated, and under-cultivated and added that the army with the assistance of the relevant stakeholders, including its JV partners and locals, will turn this into fertile land.

    The sources said that the Punjab Board of Revenue has conducted surveys for months and identified these lands for corporate farming purposes.

    The sources said that the project will be managed by retired army officers and the army will not get any pecuniary benefit out of this project rather the profit from the farming will go to the locals, the Punjab government, and firms that will invest in the project.

    At least 40pc of the revenue generated from the cultivation will go to the Punjab government, 20 per cent will be spent on modern research and development in the agriculture sector, while the remaining will be used for the succeeding crops and expansion of the project.

    They said that the agri sector’s growth rate from 4 per cent in 1960 dropped to 2.5pc in 2022 due to “flawed reforms, ineffective agriculture policies coupled with climate change, and population boom”.

    Citing the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the sources said that at least 27pc of the total cultivated land of Pakistan was not being utilised. In order to deal with this situation, the Punjab government has made a plan to restore the agriculture sector with the help of the Pakistan Army. With the use of modern agricultural methods, machinery, and high-quality seeds, agricultural production will be increased manifold, the sources claimed.

    According to the sources, in the first phase of the project, different varieties of pulses, millets and rice will be cultivated. This will be followed by large-scale cultivation of canola and wheat.

    Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2023

  • Institute works hard on improving specialty rice varieties

  • The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI) is working on improving specialty rice varieties and developing specialised rice-growing areas with high commodity value, in association with building trademarks for rice products in regional localities.

    The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Rice Research Institute works hard on improving specialty rice varieties. - Illustrative image (Photo: nongnghiep.vn)

    Hanoi (VNA) - The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI) is working on improving specialty rice varieties and developing specialised rice-growing areas with high commodity value, in association with building trademarks for rice products in regional localities.

    CLRRI Director Tran Ngoc Thach said the institute has improved 6,000 ha of milky-colour variety (Tai nguyen Duc) - a rice variety for the summer-autumn crop in Soc Trang province, and built a certification mark for this type.

    It will also research and improve the output and quality of other varieties such “nang Thom cho Dao” and “Nanh Chon”  which have been degraded because of unfavorable cultivation conditions, Thach said.

    The institute also focuses on research of selected rice varieties, towards improving rice quality suitable for climate change in the region in accordance with a project to plant one million hectares of high-quality rice associated with green growth for the Mekong Delta region, he noted.

    Illustrative image (Photo: VNA)
    In addition, it will also research and evaluate the nutritional potential of rice varieties and develop high-value products from rice and by-products in rice production and processing; develop models rotating between rice and crops and aquaculture adapt to climate change, especially in drought and saltwater intrusion areas, in areas affected by salt water in coastal fish and shrimp farming zones, he added.

    Implementing scientific research and technology transfer in the rice industry serving the socio-economic development of the Mekong Delta region, the institute was tasked with performing many relevant scientific and technological projects at national and ministerial levels.

    It has also developed rice farming procedures for four ecological sub-regions, which are being widely applied in rice production in the Mekong Delta region; and built an organic rice farming process in the shrimp-rice farming system in coastal areas of the Mekong Delta.

  • Kellogg sees positive results from sustainable rice farming pilot

  • Rice farming produces 1.5% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Wildlife Fund, but Kellogg sees a path toward diminishing the crop’s negative impact by working directly with farmers.

    The cereal giant said its InGrained rice partnership with farmers in the Lower Mississippi River Basin region — which aims to grow the crop with reduced methane emissions — yielded positive early results after the pilot year of the program.

    Kellogg invested $2 million in implementing irrigation practices over the past year. The company said that during a five-year period, it is paying producers $20 per ton of greenhouse gas they abate through introducing climate-friendly practices to their farming operations.

    Over the first year, Kellogg said, these practices garnered a reduction of over 1,600 metric tons of greenhouse gases, equal to removing 345 gasoline-fueled cars from the road.

    Janelle Meyers, chief sustainability officer at Kellogg, told Food Dive working with farmers on establishing the new agricultural practices has led to success with the project thus far. The farmers, she said, shared with Kellogg that the quality of their rice was not impacted by the new methods.

    “What we’re trying to understand is, what are the practices that can deliver greenhouse gas reduction or water conservation as a collective between those different partners?” Meyers said. “Practices were identified based off of both technical recommendations and the suggestions from the different suppliers and growers as well.”

    One practice, she said, is alternate wet and dry irrigation, in which rice fields are not kept continuously irrigated but are allowed to dry at specific intervals during the rice growing stage, according to research published by the Journal of Agricultural Science, which has been shown to mitigate emissions.

    Kellogg sources rice, a key ingredient for its Rice Krispies and Rice Krispies Treats brands, from growers in Northeast Louisiana. The company collaborated with emissions tracking group Regrow Ag for its calculation.

    The cereal giant believes the rice endeavor, which is part of Kellogg’s Origins sustainability program, will further its 2030 sustainability goals. These include lowering its Scope 3 emissions — which derive from food commodity production and transportation — by 15%, and engaging over one million growers in its environmental projects by 2030. As of 2021, the company had invested in 445,000 farmers.

    Meyers said the company has a particular interest in investing in women-owned farmers. A 2019 study from AgFunder reports that only 3% of agri-food tech investment dollars go to women.

    Kellogg identified 15 priority ingredients that need particular environmental, social or animal welfare needs, which it is rolling out and planning sustainabile agriculture projects for, Meyers said. “We’re working on corn in Mexico, wheat in Australia, potatoes in Europe, and there’s multiple others.” 

    Rice production results in emissions of several greenhouse gases, including methane, which is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The Environmental Defense Fund reports that global production of the crop is doing as much harm to the environment as 1,200 coal power stations.

    Rice production in the U.S. declined in 2022 because of persistent rainfall last spring that prevented the crop from being planted in parts of the South, according to USDA data. Yields for the 2022-2023 are projected to be lower in all growing states, the government department said, because of droughts in the Southwest region.

    With its rice project, Kellogg aims to apply some of the principles it learns to other regions, but Meyers noted that strategies will differ based on the location and climate of the project.

    “We take those learnings and try to apply them as we try to build out similar commodity projects in different regions,” she said.

  • Investors pursue rice farming

  • The government is fulfilling its plan to importing less and developing more local agriculture industry by inviting investors to collaborate with the government and local people in developing large agricultural farms.

    This week Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru received one of the first groups of investors, the Number one Filipino Rice Farmer, Danilo Bolos and accompanied his delegates of technical people to parts of Kairuku district to pursue rice-farming prospects.

    On Wednesday 25 January, the team of Members of Parliament including Richard Maru, Vice Minister Kessy Sawang and Member for Kairuku, Peter Isoaimo, visited possible rice farming land in Kairuku district.

    They were accompanied by Philippines former Secretary for Department of Agriculture, Dr. Emmanul Pinol and Bolos, to talk with the landowners regarding land for rice farming.   

    “Councilor, these are investors and they will not put their money, their time and effort in any land where there will be dispute. That’s why the model farm must be on state land, not customary land. But you can plant up your own, after you get the training and support from the main model farm,” said Minister Maru. 

    The aim of the visit is also to check the soil samples as well as securing a state land that has ample land to build a rice farming mill site which will help improve the livelihood of the surrounding villages in terms of job opportunities and creating sustainable rice farming pathways for the locals.

    Dr. Pinol who made first contact with PNG government said the discussion about the possibilities of growing rice in PNG goes back to the former government under Peter O’Neill. 

    “Today I’m out of government and I come back to fulfill a promise to government. I made to Minister Maru and Prime Minister Marape that I will help even in my private capacity to achieve the dream of PNG to produce your own rice. I know that you have been told that you cannot grow your own rice you cannot plant rice in PNG. It is wrong. The truth is that PNG & Indonesia are two of the countries in the world with the most number of wild rice varieties,” Dr. Pinol said. 

    The investors have also plans to grow other crops as well if the rice project is successfully completed as they see PNG has the largest land mass that hasn't been occupied by large scale commercial farming compared to Philippines.


  • Kellogg helps rice farmers reduce emissions

  • BATTLE CREEK, MICHIGAN, US — A Kellogg’s program to help rice farmers reduce climate impact is showing early positive results, the company reported.

    In the pilot year of the InGrained program, farmers implemented irrigation practices that achieved a reduction of more than 1,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking more than 345 gasoline-powered cars off the road for one year.

    Kellogg piloted the program in northeast Louisiana in collaboration with leading agricultural greenhouse gas measurement firm Regrow Ag, rice producers, Kellogg supplier Kennedy Rice Mill LLC and agribusiness firm Syngenta.

    Rice production emits several greenhouse gases, most significantly, methane. Methane contributes approximately 1.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions and is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

    "Not only are we helping farmers implement new practices on their farms, but farmers are telling us that just as importantly, the quality of their rice was not affected by the adjusted irrigation practices," said Stacey Shaw, Syngenta's senior sustainability lead.

    Much of the rice sourced from the Louisiana River Basin is used in iconic foods like Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal and Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats.

    "Kellogg's Better Days environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy is committed to supporting 1 million farmers and reducing Scope 3 GHG emissions across our value chain by 15 percent by the end of 2030," said Janelle Meyers, Kellogg Company's chief sustainability officer. "Programs like Kellogg's InGrained contribute to this ambitious goal, create positive impacts on the planet and support the livelihoods of farmers who grow the rice for some of our most iconic foods."

    Kellogg and its InGrained partners are making adjustments as they transition into the second year of the program, while ensuring both financial and technical support continue to help farmers with these new practices. Kellogg is also exploring expanding the program to include various regions with different weather patterns and soil types to determine if similar positive impacts are found. 

  • Flooding stops rice farmers sowing next crop in southern New South Wales

  • Heavy rain and flooding have seen less than half the expected rice crop planted in some areas of the country, as the window to sow closes. 
    In southern New South Wales, growers would typically be wrapping up sowing at this time of year. 
    Rice Growers' Association of Australia president Peter Herrmann says optimal sowing conditions have been replaced by an unseasonable amount of rain.
    He says growers are still frantically trying to plant what they could. 
    "In theory, the window's still open but we've been saying this now for quite a few weeks and the weather keeps coming," Mr Herrmann said. 
    "Some poor families are in the situation where they haven't had the opportunity, despite their best preparations, to sow any rice crop this year."
    A portrait shot of a man standing in front of a tree.

    Less than half the intended crop planted

    Michael Chalmers is a rice grower at Wakool, west of Deniliquin, and chair of the local Rice Growers' Association branch. 

    While he managed to get half of his rice sown before the start of October, some of it was submerged for up to three weeks.

    "It's drill-sown rice, which ironically doesn't want to be under water until about the end of November, so it's struggling along," he said. 

    Drill-down rice is planted directly into the soil and uses less water than aerial-sown rice.

    Mr Chalmers said there would be a yield reduction and that counterparts in the Wakool region were even worse off. 

    "Talking to a good friend down the road, he's lost about 160 hectares of rice under floodwater —  it's been under water for about a month," Mr Chalmers said. 

    "I would guess at the moment he has something like less than 40 per cent of the intended area planted."

    A man with one arm around a boy in front of a flooded paddock.
    Michael Chalmers and his son, Lachie, on their flooded property.(Supplied: Michael Chalmers)

    After such a good year for the industry in 2021, Mr Chalmers says this year is a "bitter disappointment".

    "Last year was a fantastic year, probably the best year I've ever seen for growing rice and this year's the polar opposite," he said.  

    'Tragedy' after a huge investment

    At this stage, it is unclear how bad the losses are. 

    Mr Herrmann says it is a big blow for the industry after increased investment into this year's crop to cover high fertiliser costs. 

    "There's the opportunity cost of crops that aren't going to be sown," he said.

    "Then there's the terribly distressing circumstances of losing crops that were so close, and that we had invested so much of our money in to produce.

    "We're still in damage control mode so counting our losses is something we probably do in the middle of the night when we prefer to be sleeping."

    Rows of rice crop with some puddles around.
    Michael Chalmers' rice survived after being submerged.(Supplied: Michael Chalmers)

    Looking ahead

    Mr Chalmers does not expect the domestic market to be impacted but things could be different overseas. 

    "Our export markets, probably there will be an effect given that there is a global rice shortage at the moment," he said.

    Mr Herrmann says it is unclear what the coming months hold for growers, but he hopes the rain and flooding ease to ensure crop rotation can go ahead, which is vital for rice growers.   

    "We want that winter crop rotation, that pasture rotation, and inundation is not good for pastures," he said.

    Sheep make their way along a road with water around them.
    Southern NSW farmers have had to adapt to flooded paddocks.(Supplied: Michael Chalmers)
  • Rice farmers to benefit from new herbicide-tolerant rice system technologies

  • BASF and Seedworks Philippines Inc. announced the formalization of new licensing agreements for BASF Clearfield® Production System and Provisia® Rice System technologies that will meet the increasing need of direct seeded rice farming method in the Philippines.

    Agriculture is not only impacted by climate change, but also responsible for 17%* of total greenhouse gas emissions. Transplanted wet paddy rice farming is a major contributor of field emissions of methane (CH4). The water irrigated fields block oxygen from penetrating the soil, creating ideal conditions for bacteria that are responsible for emitting greenhouse gases.

    As part of BASF Climate Smart farming efforts, and in addition to helping farmers control tough weeds, such as resistant grassy weeds and weedy rice, this new licensing agreement between BASF and Seedworks will see both companies working together to develop and commercialize new non-GMO Herbicide Tolerant hybrid rice (direct seeded) systems to increase both productivity and sustainability for rice growers in the Philippines.

    “Rice is a primary source of food for us in Asia. There is an estimated 2.4 million rice growers in the Philippines, with a total acreage of 4.8 million hectares and with up to 36%** of rice grown via direct seeded option versus wet paddy. Direct seeded rice uses roughly 50% less water to grow, uses less labor per day compared to wet paddy.” said Simone Barg, Senior Vice President, Agricultural Solutions, Asia Pacific. “With our new partner, Seedworks Philippines Inc., BASF is dedicated to support farmers to decrease their environmental impact and improve farm resilience. Through our innovative rice solutions of Clearfield and Provisia, two herbicide-tolerant seed traits will be introduced to Philippine’s direct seeded rice hybrid systems. By providing an alternative to wet paddy rice, and providing a more advanced option for current direct seeded rice farmers, Filipino rice farmers now gain the benefit of excellent weed control, a reduced footprint of greenhouse gas emissions and a potential increase of their rice crop yield”

    Carlos Saplala, President of Seedworks Philippines, Inc. commented that “Food security issue in the Philippines has never been more relevant than today. Helping farmers leverage on this world class technology will not only improve their yields but also their income. We also expect that underutilized areas in the country due to weedy rice will be better maximized through the use of this Clearfield and Provisia technology. This will also redound to helping the current administration’s objective of offering rice at a more affordable price.”

    “SeedWorks’ mission is to strive to provide Seed Solutions more than just selling seeds, I am very delighted with this collaboration with BASF bringing in H.T. Tolerant Rice lines, which is in line with our mission. Together we can help the Filipino farmer optimize his cost of cultivation, improve farm productivity and increase his income from the same land. Rice is a staple diet in the Philippines and we are happy that this project is one more step towards addressing the issue of making the Philippines self-sufficient in rice.” said Dr. Venkatram Vasantavada, SeedWorks Philippines, Inc. Chairman and Managing Director of SeedWorks International.

    “Farming is the biggest job on earth, and food security is an important topic for the Philippines. Our government, like many other nations, continues in seeking long term solutions for how our growers can increase yields, decrease environmental impact, and enhance farming robustness. BASF’s Clearfield and Provisia rice systems enable more productive and sustainable farming – key levers identified by the United Nations and incorporated in their Sustainable Development Goals. As a leader in agricultural solutions for growers globally, BASF made this a priority and committed to clear and measurable targets to boost sustainable agriculture by 2030. With this licensing agreement and the steps that Seedworks will take to cultivate the hybrids for the Philippine rice industry, we are very optimistic about the future of achieving more sustainable rice farming, with greater weed control, in the Philippines” said Manolo Sambrano, BASF Industry Head, Agriculture -Philippines.

    Clearfield and Provisia rice systems by BASF are non-GM crop technologies for rice production developed with traditional plant-breeding techniques. The innovation is best understood as an integration of seed traits and chemistry. The herbicide tolerant traits allow farmers to control a range of weeds through an easy, over-the top application of a targeted ALS-inhibiting herbicide without harming the rice crop. In addition, together they form an integrated weed management tool for farmers and offer farmers a vital tool in fighting weeds, while remaining compatible with no-till methods, that help preserve topsoil. For more information, visit https://agriculture.basf.us/crop-protection/crops/rice.html.

  • India’s rice farmers find themselves on front line of water crisis

  • The country is struggling to wean itself off subsidies that encourage overuse

    Paddy fields in Kerala. Changing monsoon patterns have made life harder for India’s farmers © Rebecca Conway/Getty Images

    India’s “green revolution” in the 1960s was hailed globally for combining policy and scientific advances in agriculture — bringing food security to the newly independent country. A surge in yields and production of staple crops, such as rice and wheat, helped prevent the famines that had blighted the country under British colonial rule. But the intensification of Indian farming in the decades since has spawned a series of challenges of its own, from chemical pollution to price distortion. One of the greatest of all is unsustainable water use. India, with a population of 1.4bn, is among the most water-stressed countries in the world. A report from the government’s NITI Aayog think-tank in 2019 estimated that 600mn Indians faced “high to extreme water stress”, and warned that 21 big cities — including the capital New Delhi — would run out of groundwater in a matter of years. With about half the workforce employed in agriculture, this poses a huge challenge, not just to farmers but also to the economy as a whole. Indian authorities are aware of the challenge. Prime minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly called on citizens “to save every drop of water” that they can. “We should use water sparingly, like a sacred offering,” he said in an address released on World Water Day in March this year. However, the magnitude of the task has stumped policymakers, economists and environmentalists alike. India’s farmers, despite their vulnerability to water stress, often depend on a series of incentives and subsidies that encourage them to grow water-intensive crops, like rice. For example, many receive free electricity that allows them to pump water from the ground, which depletes groundwater levels. These farmers also depend on the annual monsoon — the rainy season that sweeps across the subcontinent between June and September. Yet climate change has made these rains more volatile, triggering unpredictable combinations of intense flooding and droughts. Historic flooding in Pakistan this year, for example, devastated crops in the south of the country, while farmers in already dry regions face intensifying water stress. “India is short of water and has a highly water insecure future,” says Karan Manral, a farmer and writer on agriculture. “What we’re seeing already is a form of climate chaos. What are the monsoon or water patterns going to be? I’m not sure I’ve read anything that has a clue about how the climate lottery is going to work out for any place.”

    Climate chaos: floods in some areas — such as these in Assam in June — coincide with water shortages elsewhere © David Talukdar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Amid this backdrop, authorities, non-governmental organisations and the private sector are all scrambling for solutions. At one end of the spectrum, venture capitalists and investors have poured money into start-ups that promote technological solutions, such as hydroponics — a highly water-efficient method of growing plants without soil. But many dismiss such approaches as too expensive for mass use. “It may be great in a very urban place, in New York City, where land is so expensive,” Manral says. “But, if you say it’s going to save the future of farming, you completely lose me there . . . The cost is many light years away from what a farmer in India is capable of doing.” Other approaches include incentivising farmers to plant less water-intensive crops, such as millet — a cereal traditionally grown in India — rather than rice. In 2020, for example, the government in the northwestern agricultural state of Haryana launched a scheme offering farmers Rs7,000 ($85) for every acre on which they grow something other than rice. These initiatives have had limited success, though. Avinash Kishore, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute in New Delhi, argues that the vast differences in potential yield mean it is often more lucrative to grow rice than alternatives — even with the extra money. Rice growers also enjoy government-mandated minimum prices that remove much of their financial risk, which is not the case with many alternative crops. Defenders of such arrangements point out that encouraging production of staples like rice and wheat protects food security by creating strategic surpluses to distribute at times of need, such as during the Covid-19 lockdowns. These challenges suggest that initiatives to improve water use in farming must be part of a broader reform of the agricultural system. But the political peril in implementing this has left authorities reluctant to try. Modi, for example, attempted in 2020 to overhaul the country’s farm laws and open up a government-controlled system to greater private participation. However, this controversial move — pushed through with minimal consultation — sparked such broad and unrelenting protests that he was ultimately forced into a humiliating U-turn, scrapping the reforms. Kishore says that the government “seems to have given up” on trying to reorganise the system of subsidies that ultimately push farmers to grow water-intensive crops. But he believes that at least one project has had some success in achieving the scale that could break the deadlock. PM Kusum, a government initiative launched in 2019, distributes solar panels to farmers to promote clean energy. Instead of encouraging farmers to pump even more groundwater, authorities buy back excess power as part of the scheme, creating a financial incentive for farmers to limit their own electricity — and therefore water — use. “This may be the largest government programme to save water,” Kishore says.

  • Rice farmers doing fantastic job in Nigeria – UN

  • The United Nations through it Food and Agriculture Organisation has described rice production by smallholder farmers in Nigeria as a fantastic job.

    It stated that though there were still a lot that should be done in the agriculture sector in Nigeria, the country had made considerable progress in rice production.

    The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday.

    Haile-Gabriel and the FAO Deputy Director of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience, Shukri Ahmed, are in Nigeria on a high-level mission to strengthen solidarity and amplify the voice of humanitarian actors in advocating support to stem food insecurity across the country.

    Commenting on the progress in the agriculture sector in Nigeria, the FAO regional representative said, “Nigeria used to be dependent on imported rice.

    “But in the past few years, Nigeria has done a fantastic job in the production of rice locally, moving towards self sufficiency.

    “So Nigeria has done a lot, it may not be enough but that is why there is a need for partnership to support the efforts of the government.”

    The FAO, in a advisory on the visit of its officials to Nigeria, stated that  delegation would also reiterate FAO’s commitment, at the highest level, to building resilience of agriculture-based livelihoods to multiple shocks.

    It added that the team would speak on FAO’s corporate strategic direction in agrifood systems transformation globally and specifically in Africa.

    “The delegation will meet with selected senior government officials in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Heads of Mission and development partners in Abuja,” the organisation stated.

    This came as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture in the Office of the Vice President, Andrew Kwasari, told journalists on the sidelines of the event that virtually all the produce of smallholder farmers in Nigeria were not insured.

  • “Weedy Rice” Develops Herbicide Resistance…

  • “Weedy Rice” Develops Herbicide Resistance: Agrichemical Industry Repeating Mistakes?

    (Beyond Pesticides, September 28, 2022) ‘Weedy rice,’ a close relative of cultivated rice that invades rice fields and reduces yields, is rapidly developing herbicide resistance in critical rice growing areas throughout the United States. According to research published this month in Communications Biology, the widespread planting of herbicide-resistant rice, developed through traditional, transitional (non-genetically engineered) breeding techniques, is driving this concerning phenomenon. The findings highlight the risk to agricultural production that relies on crops developed to tolerate repeated applications of synthetic chemicals, regardless of their method of development.

    Weedy rice is a form of rice that was “re-wilded,” or “de-domesticated” from cultivated rice, independently evolving multiple times throughout the world. It is highly adapted to grow in areas where cultivated rice is produced, and can result in significant yield loses, as well as a reduction in quality that reduces marketability.

    In the early 2000s, the agrichemical industry believed they had found a solution to the weedy rice. Multinational chemical corporation BASF developed a line of rice cultivars, produced through traditional breeding, that conferred resistance to imidazolinone class herbicides. This includes chemicals like imazapyr, imazaquin, imazethapyr, and imazamox, which poses cancer, reproductive, and neurotoxic risks to human health, and is toxic to bees and aquatic organisms. This line of rice, dubbed “ClearfieldTM rice,” now represents more than on third of all rice production in the U.S.

    Farmers began noticing hybridization of weedy rice, and subsequent herbicide resistance soon after the herbicide resistant cultivars were introduced, and by 2010 one study found 80% of weedy rice to be resistant.  

    With weedy rice causing an estimated $45 million annually in losses, scientists set out to better understand the current state of affairs. In 2018, weedy rice was sampled across five Arkansas rice fields, and its genome was sequenced. Researchers found that nearly all weedy rice is a crop-weed hybrid, yet its genomes shifted to become much more similar to its characteristically weedy forebears.

    “The situation is somewhat analogous to human health and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens. Widespread use of antibiotics ends up strongly selecting for the rapid evolution of the drug-resistant strains,” said senior study author Kenneth Olsen, PhD, of Washington University St Louis. “With weedy rice, herbicide-resistant weeds were being detected just a couple of years after herbicide-resistant rice was first commercialized.”

    This cross-breeding can occur when herbicide sprays do not kill all the weedy rice plants, and they happen to flower concurrent to the cultivated, herbicide-resistant rice crop. “As a de-domesticated weedy relative, weedy rice has always been able to outcross with cultivated rice. Based on our results, this ability to interbreed is what led to most of the herbicide resistance that we see today,” study coauthor Marshall Wedger, PhD said.

    Researchers note that the problem farmers are encountering is a result of an agricultural approach that relies on a single, streamlined method of weed control. “Just like in the case of antibiotic resistance, the rise of resistance to this particular herbicide will be met with a new technology that relies on a new herbicide,” Wedger said. “New herbicide-resistant cultivars are already in development, so I expect this process to repeat.”

    While the scientific community studies this process, it is not enough for pesticide reform advocates to simply throw their hands in the air as the next version of this overly simplified agricultural practice is perpetuated. The story here is a perfect example of what many opponents of genetic engineering have espoused – although genetic engineering is a risky technology that should be highly regulated, it is the agronomic practices genetic changes propagate that are most concerning. In other words, it is not the fact that crop has been genetically engineered that is the primary issue, but the fact that its use supports a toxic system that increases reliance on highly hazardous pesticides as a regular course of crop production. Whether created from traditional or genetic engineering, such a system is inherently flawed and sisyphean, kicking the can of responsible management down the road for future farmers.

    Yet as the chemical industry scrambles to create a new crop or chemical, traditional, effective management techniques are slowly lost. A recent study found that traditional, diversified rice production that integrated animals into the system was able to significantly outperform yields seen in the sort of monoculture rice fields that are reliant on toxic pesticides. And as new chemical solutions are developed with high cost to the environment and society, it becomes increasingly difficult for farmers to shift back to these traditional techniques. This is due to a range of factors, including not only lack of knowledge, but overhead investment in the chemical system and other economic factors, nearby cultivation of herbicide-resistant crops placing any non-resistant crops at risk from pesticide drift, and farmer culture and peer pressure, which in farming communities is often the primary method through which harmful agricultural practices are preserved.

    All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

  • Harvest Festival: Smart agricultural technology demonstrated at expo

  • Rice accounts for about 30 percent of China's grain crops. At this year's China-Chengdu International Urban Modern Agricultural Expo, some innovative ways to grow rice were put on display. CGTN's Reporter GUO TIANQI has more.

    The fertile Chengdu Plain has been known as China's "granary" since ancient times. And at this Agricultural Expo, it's also one of the exhibition areas.

    GUO TIANQI Chengdu "Many smart farming devices have been displayed in this outdoor field, including this smart irrigation system, which allows people to remotely control the ups and downs of the valve and to modify the amount of water in the field."

    The smart irrigation system and the mini weather stations are all solar-powered. All the data can be analyzed in real time on computers in a control room to help staff make decisions. But that's not all.

    KE JIANGUO Technical Director Tianfu Agricultural Expo Park "If upland rice farming is promoted nationwide, China can increase rice production by at least 20 percent. Areas with distinct wet and dry climates, such as Southeast Asia and Africa, are also suitable for upland rice cultivation, which will greatly contribute to global food security."

    Upland rice farming reduces water usage by 80 percent and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This smart farm is quite the attraction at the expo.

    KE JIANGUO Technical Director Tianfu Agricultural Expo Park "This kind of on-site display of agricultural technology also has a role in popularizing science. It can help young people get interested in agriculture."

    The 200-hectare farm also grows different types of soybeans, corn and vegetables to sell at the expo. GUO TIANQI, CGTN, Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

  • All, except farmers, profit from paddy farming

  • Paddy farmers in the northern districts have struggled to turn a profit for the past five years, as production costs have risen significantly but rice prices have not increased proportionally.

    Moreover, the recent hike in fertiliser and diesel prices has made it virtually impossible for marginal farmers to make any profits, said farmers from Bogura, Joypurhat, Gaibandha, and Dinajpur.

    Recently, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) office, Bogura region, made estimates of the production cost of T-Aman paddy cultivated in Bogura, Joypurhat, Pabna, and Sirajganj districts.

    This document shows the cost of producing paddy per bigha (33 decimal) is Tk 18,607, which results in a yield of 617 kg (or roughly 15.5 maunds). From this venture, a farmer makes Tk 19,659 (including Tk 3,000 earned from selling paddy straws).

    The data also shows that farmers spend Tk 30 to produce one kg of paddy, despite the government's current price of Tk 27 per kg.

    Speaking to farmers in Bogura, Joypurhat, and Gaibandha, this correspondent found that the actual production cost was a little more in reality.

    They said almost never does the cultivation process go exactly as planned, so there are always extra costs associated with the means of production.

    Additionally, the costs of leasing land vary from region to region and depend on the land's capacity for yield and crop rotations, they added.

    Whereas in India, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) estimates that it costs Rs 1,360 to produce one quintal (100 kg) of Aman paddy.

    Furthermore, in FY23, the Government of India set the minimum support price of paddy at Rs 2,040 per quintal, so farmers can make a profit of Tk 680 per quintal.

    Meanwhile, Bangladeshi farmers are set to incur a loss of Tk 300 per quintal as per the government's current price.

    Five years ago, the production costs per bigha for Aman, Boro, and Aus were Tk 11,500, Tk 13,250, and Tk 6,485, according to the DAE.

    Salim Sajjad, from Pashchim Palsha village in Dinajpur's Ghoraghat upazila, who cultivated Aman paddy on five acres this season, said, "All businesses related to paddy farming are profiting except the farmers."

    Farmers in the village said when landowners cultivate paddy, they can make some profit, but 30 to 40 percent of paddy farmers there worked on leased land and were unable to profit.

    Abdul Mozid, a farmer from Chokzora village in Bogura's Shahjahanpur upazila, said he now drives a CNG-run autorickshaw to support his six-member family.

    "Farmers have never spent so much money on Aman cultivation as they have this season. This year, it is uncertain whether they can make a profit," he said.

    Rashedul Islam, a farmer from Maltia village in Joypurhat's Kalai upazila, said, "After we harvest our crops this season, I'm afraid we have to sell all our crops in order to pay off our loans, which we took in the beginning of the season."

    "As a result, I'll have to buy rice from the market to feed my family and borrow money again to cultivate potatoes," he added.

    Md Nuruzzaman, deputy director of DAE, Dinajpur, said, "Paddy farming by itself does not produce a profit, so it is important for farmers to also cultivate other types of crops."


  • Sri Lanka wants farmers to plant more rice as part of plans to avert a severe food shortage, a top official said on Tuesday, as experts warned of a 50% drop in production that would worsen the impact of its already-severe financial crisis.

    Sri Lanka is in the throes of its worst such crisis in more than seven decades. The island of 22 million people has run out of foreign exchange reserves and is unable to pay for critical imports including fuel, food and medicine.

    “It is clear the food situation is becoming worse. We request all farmers to step into their fields in the next five to ten days and cultivate paddy,” Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told a press conference on Tuesday.

    Sri Lanka’s new prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned of a severe food shortage by August and estimates $600 million will be needed to import fertliser, which the country is struggling to raise.

    Most fertliser will arrive too late for the next cultivation cycle that usually kicks off in early June, a group of agriculture experts have warned. In the next two seasons, sufficient quantities of fertilizer will not be available to fulfill the nutrient requirements of any of the major crops of rice, tea and maize.

    Buddhi Marambe, an agriculture professor at the University of Peradeniya, said some areas will lose more than 50% of the paddy yield even if action is taken.

    “Even if we bring fertilizer today, it will be too late to have a good harvest,” he said.

    Talks are underway with India to procure 65,000 tonnes of fertliser and appeals have been made to seven other countries, Amaraweera said. But he did not disclose details of when shipments would arrive.

    Last month the central bank announced it would “preemptively” default on some of its external debt as the currency depreciated more than 50% and food inflation hit 46% in April.

  • Rice Market Update: Complicated Marketing Year Ahead for Farmers

  • By Dwight Roberts, U.S. Rice Producers Association

    Rice irrigated with poly pipe.

    Planting has rounded out and there remains less than 5% of acres to be put in the ground in Arkansas. It appears we will crest the 1 million acre mark, which is welcome news considering the earlier fears on account of weather.

    With planting all but over, there is now a tumultuous marketing year ahead, navigating high input prices, rising food costs, and deteriorating trade relationships as protectionism sets in to many U.S. long grain customers in Central and Latin America, making exports more difficult than ever.

    We touched last week on Mexico’s plan to curb food inflation by removing import tariffs on a basket of goods, which includes paddy rice. It’s important to note that milled rice was not included in this, though there are more than 60 other basic food and household products that are lumped into this program to fight price inflation and food scarcity.

    Mexico is not the only country in the Western Hemisphere taking steps like this; Costa Rica proposed legislation to cheapen rice for consumers, Brazil has reduced their tariffs thru the end of 2023, and El Salvador announced a one-year suspension of duties on rice from all origins late in the first quarter of 2022.

    Adding all of this together equates to significant hurdles to export long grain rice to what has been traditional U.S. customers. This does not mean that all export business will dry up, but when Uruguay is currently selling at $550 pmt with no tariffs, and U.S. Long Grain is being quoted at $690 pmt, competing for business is obviously a challenge.

    In Asia, the blossoming relationship between Thailand and Iraq is getting attention as of late. Iraq has made it no secret they were going to need well of 1 million metric ton of rice — there just weren’t a lot of people who expected most of it to come from Thailand. Iraq has historically spread their business out through issuing tenders, but with the new purchasing arm, negotiating directly with large trading outfits seems to be the new norm.

    The significant price disparity between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres made Asian origins the natural fit. Iraq hasn’t purchased significant quantities of rice from Thailand in nearly seven years, but that changed in August of 2021, and has rocketed forward ever since.

    Reports indicate that Thailand will ship approximately 500,000 metric ton to Iraq by the end of this month, making Iraq the largest customer for Thai rice — something that is giving many traders whiplash. The Iraq business has disrupted the demand dynamics, forcing many West African buyers of Thai rice to look elsewhere, as milling availability is booked up, and prices are firm because of the Iraqi business.

    Viet prices have stayed flat, largely absorbing the fallout from Iraq occupying Thai exporters. India, Pakistan, and even Vietnam have a more difficult time meeting the Iraqi specifications, further bolstering Thailand as the strategic partner for this moment in time.

    India has been in making headlines again because of their announced ban on wheat exports. Then rumors began swirling about a rice export ban — which flies against all logic from those familiar with the export volume in the last year. However, India is working to dispel the rumors of a rice export ban, as government officials are making it clear they have had successive record crops, and will continue their record export pace.

    The weekly USDA Export Sales report shows Net sales of 29,900 MT for 2021/2022, up noticeably from the previous week and up 74% from the prior 4-week average. Increases were primarily for Haiti at 15,200 MT.

    Exports of 25,900 MT were up 7% from the previous week, but down 46% from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to Japan (12,300 MT), El Salvador (5,300 MT), Guatemala (3,000 MT), and Canada (2,500 MT).

  • Grain-forage rice to improve land utilisation

  • China’s high-quality, high-yield rice varieties widely promoted in Pakistan

    Pakistan, once the world’s seventh-largest rice exporter, became the fourth-largest after the introduction of hybrid rice from China. PHOTO: china economic net


    Since Pakistan started importing Chinese high-yield rice seeds, the growers that used to produce 40 to 50 mounds now produce 100 mounds, said Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Vice President Shamsul Islam Khan.

    “Rice production in Pakistan has improved a lot, and we are exporting it,” he said.

    In the first quarter of this fiscal year, Pakistan’s export of rice rose by 17.5% to $423 million.

    “Pakistan is a major rice-growing and exporting country. China’s high-quality and high-yield rice varieties have been widely promoted in Pakistan. Pakistan has sufficient sunlight and fewer plant diseases and pests, making it easier to obtain high yields,” said President of International Exchange and Cooperation Branch of China Seed Association Zhang Qin, who is also the CEO of Win-all Hi-Tech Seed Co Ltd.

    Win-all Hi-Tech has been doing seed cooperation with Pakistan for almost 25 years. “We entered Pakistani market in 2007. The growth period of the first variety we introduced in Pakistan was 20 days shorter than that of the local variety, and the output was more than 100% higher. It caused a great flutter among rice farmers in Sindh at that time,” Zhang recalled.

    Zhang said that the company is now cooperating with scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences to cultivate a new rice variety that can be used for both grain and forage.

    They use the genes of brittle culm and efficient nitrogen utilisation to transform current rice varieties, so that the grain of plants can be eaten by humans, and the straw can feed cattle and sheep.

    “Now we are testing this dual-purpose rice variety extensively in China. The straw is very tasty for livestock. Lambs, in particular, gain weight quickly while eating it. Such breed can greatly improve land utilisation.”


  • Germany lauds “Thai Rice NAMA” as a model project for low-emission rice production and sustainable farming

  • On May 9 H.E. Georg Schmidt, Ambassador of Germany to Thailand and Varawut Silpa-Archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), together with Lioba Donner, Policy Officer for Thailand, Division International Climate Initiative (IKI), General Issues of Bilateral Cooperation, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), visited the pilot areas of the Thai Rice NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action) project in Doem Bang Nang Buat district of Suphan Buri province where innovative low-emission farming techniques have been introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from rice production while increasing production efficiency.

    In an exchange with local farmers, the delegation discussed how sustainable farming can help increase rice productivity and farmers’ income while contributing to greenhouse gas mitigation and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

    The visit was joined by Natthapat Suwanprateep, Suphan Buri Governor, Phirun Saiyasitpanich, the Secretary-General of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) and Apichart Pongsrihadulchai, Advisor to the Director-General of the Rice Department.

    Rice is important as it is cultivated on roughly half of all agricultural land in Thailand and accounts for nearly 55% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture. Thailand is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of rice-related greenhouse gases. Therefore, the Rice Department focuses on developing a sustainable rice strategy and promoting the ‘3 Increases, 3 Decreases’ campaign. Rice smallholders and agripreneurs are encouraged to adopt farming techniques and innovations to increase rice yields, rice quality and revenue while decreasing production costs, water consumption and ultimately GHG emissions to improve quality of life and livelihoods while preserving the environment vulnerable to global warming.

    Germany lauds "Thai Rice NAMA" as a model project for low-emission rice production and sustainable farming
    Germany lauds "Thai Rice NAMA" as a model project for low-emission rice production and sustainable farming

    The delegation visited a demonstration of the Laser Land Leveling (LLL) Technique which is one of four techniques in sustainable farming, which comprise LLL technology, Alternate Wetting and Drying, Site Specific Nutrient Management, and Straw and Stubble Management. The LLL technology is one of the key evidence-based approaches that help farmers increase rice yields and save water while reducing soil surface depletion and GHG emissions.

    The approaches of sustainable, low-emission farming are also in line with the Glasgow Climate Pact of the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26), held in Glasgow, Scotland last year and will support Thailand’s announcement at COP26 of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 and aiming for net-zero GHG emissions by 2065.

    Germany lauds "Thai Rice NAMA" as a model project for low-emission rice production and sustainable farming
    Germany lauds "Thai Rice NAMA" as a model project for low-emission rice production and sustainable farming

    The Thai Rice NAMA project is funded by the NAMA Facility with the Governments of Germany and United Kingdom as main donors. The project is implemented by the Rice Department (RD) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and other partner agencies. The objective is to support Thai rice farmers in 6 provinces in Central Thailand, namely Chai Nat, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Suphan Buri, amounting to 100,000 farmer households, to have access to farming technology to increase the efficiency of rice production and shift to low-emission rice production. The project has a five-year period of implementation from August 2018 - August 2023.

  • Asia: Rising fertilizer costs are catching up to rice farmers, threatening supplies

  • Soaring fertilizer costs have rice farmers across Asia scaling back their use, a move that threatens harvests of a staple that feeds half of humanity and could lead to a full-blown food crisis if prices aren’t curbed.

    From India to Vietnam and the Philippines, prices of crop nutrients crucial to boosting food production have doubled or tripled in the past year alone. Lower fertilizer use may mean a smaller crop. The International Rice Research Institute predicts that yields could drop 10% in the next season, translating to a loss of 36 million tons of rice, or the equivalent of feeding 500 million people.

    That’s a “very conservative estimate,” said Humnath Bhandari, a senior agricultural economist at the institute, adding that the impact could be far more severe should the war in Ukraine continue.

    Fertilizer prices have been rising globally due to supply snags, production woes, and, more recently, the war, which has disrupted trade with Russia, a big supplier of every major type of crop nutrient. The surge in fertilizer costs threatens to stoke food inflation, assuming farmers continue to cut back and crop yields suffer. If that happens, global supply chains are likely to take a major hit: Practically every plate of food makes it to the dinner table with the help of fertilizers.

    Rice farmers are particularly vulnerable. Unlike wheat and corn, which have seen prices skyrocket as the war jeopardizes one of the world’s major breadbaskets, rice prices have been subdued due to ample production and existing stockpiles. That means rice growers have to deal with inflated costs while also not getting more money for their grains.

    Nguyen Binh Phong, the owner of a fertilizer and pesticide store in Vietnam’s Kien Giang province, said the cost of a 50-kilogram sack of urea -- a form of nitrogen fertilizer -- has jumped three-fold over the past year. He said some farmers have slashed fertilizer use by 10% to 20% because of soaring prices, leading to a lower output.

    “When the farmers' cut fertilizer use, they accept that they will get lower profit,” he said.

    Governments in Asia, where much of the world’s rice is harvested, are keen to avoid this scenario. Keeping prices under control is important for politicians, given rice’s importance as a staple for hundreds of millions of people, especially lower-income groups. Many nations provide fertilizer subsidies to increase yields of improved varieties of cereal crops.

    The fertilizer rally is increasing their fiscal burden. India, which relies heavily on fertilizer imports, is set to spend about $20 billion to shield farmers from higher prices, up from about $14 billion budgeted in February. The South Asian nation is the world’s second-biggest producer of rice and exports to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

    The crunch is not all bad. Overuse of chemical fertilizers is rife in the region. The surge in prices is incentivizing farmers to use resources more efficiently, according to the International Rice Research Institute, which is working with growers to achieve optimal results. Solutions include utilizing a combination of chemical and organic inputs to maintain yields while improving soil health.

    Still, these steps will take time to implement. And as the war in Ukraine continues to disrupt economies worldwide, farmers and the rice institute say the most challenging days are perhaps yet to come.

    “If this continues, then it’s inevitable that prices will go up", Bhandari said. “It has to be reflected somewhere.”

  • Rising Fertilizer Costs are Catching up to Rice Farmers, Threatening Supplies

    • War has severely disrupted Russian exports of crop nutrients
    • Farmers dealing with inflated costs and subdued rice prices

    Soaring fertilizer costs have rice farmers across Asia scaling back their use, a move that threatens harvests of a staple that feeds half of humanity and could lead to a full-blown food crisis if prices aren’t curbed.

    From India to Vietnam and the Philippines, prices of crop nutrients crucial to boosting food production have doubled or tripled in the past year alone. Lower fertilizer use may mean a smaller crop. The International Rice Research Institute predicts that yields could drop 10% in the next season, translating to a loss of 36 million tons of rice, or the equivalent of feeding 500 million people. 

    That’s a “very conservative estimate,” said Humnath Bhandari, a senior agricultural economist at the institute, adding that the impact could be far more severe should the war in Ukraine continue. 

    Fertilizer prices have been rising globally due to supply snags, production woes, and more recently the war, which has disrupted trade with Russia, a big supplier of every major type of crop nutrient. The surge in fertilizer costs is threatening to stoke food inflation assuming farmers continue to cut back and crop yields suffer. If that happens, global supply chains are likely to take a major hit: Practically every plate of food makes it to the dinner table with the help of fertilizers.

    Rice farmers are particularly vulnerable. Unlike wheat and corn, which have seen prices skyrocket as the war jeopardizes one of the world’s major breadbaskets, rice prices have been subdued due to ample production and existing stockpiles. That means rice growers are having to deal with inflated costs while also not getting more money for their grains.

    Nguyen Binh Phong, the owner of a fertilizer and pesticide store in Vietnam’s Kien Giang province, said the cost of a 50-kilogram sack of urea -- a form of nitrogen fertilizer -- has jumped three-fold over the past year. He said some farmers have slashed fertilizer use by 10% to 20% because of soaring prices, leading to a lower output.

    “When the farmers cut fertilizer use, they accept that they will get lower profit,” he said.

    Diverging Fortunes

    Rice prices have fallen in the past year unlike other major crops Governments in Asia, where much of the world’s rice is harvested, are keen to avoid this scenario. Keeping prices under control is important for politicians, given rice’s importance as a staple for hundreds of millions of people, especially lower income groups. Many nations provide fertilizer subsidies to increase yields of improved varieties of cereal crops. 

    The fertilizer rally is increasing their fiscal burden. India, which relies heavily on fertilizer imports, is set to spend about $20 billion to shield farmers from higher prices, up from about $14 billion budgeted in February. The South Asian nation is the world’s second-biggest producer of rice and exports to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nepal and Bangladesh. 

    Somashekhar Rao, 57, a farmer who grows rice on a 25-acre plot in Telangana, in southern India, said he’s struggling with the increased cost of fertilizer. He expects yields to fall by 5-10% for his winter-sown crop because of the delay in securing enough supplies. Fertilizer is most effective when used on plants at their peak growing cycle. 

    The crunch is not all bad. Overuse of chemical fertilizers is rife in the region. The surge in prices is incentivizing farmers to use resources more efficiently, according to the International Rice Research Institute, which is working with growers to achieve optimal results. Solutions include utilizing a combination of chemical and organic inputs to maintain yields while improving soil health. 

    Still, these steps will take time to implement. And as the war in Ukraine continues to disrupt economies across the world, farmers and the rice institute say the hardest days are perhaps yet to come.

    “If this continues, then it’s inevitable” that prices will go up, Bhandari said. “It has to be reflected somewhere.” 

  • Mwea scheme rice farmers vow not to pay Warma charges

  • Rice farmers from Mwea Irrigation scheme have vowed not to pay the Sh15,000 levies imposed by the Water Resource Management Authority terming it exploitative.

    The farmers argue that the new regulations which were gazetted this year will increase the levies from the current Sh3,000 repair and maintenance fee paid to National Irrigation Authority to Sh15,000 Warma. If the new regulations will be fully implemented, the Authority is set to collect Sh450 million from the 30,000 acres under irrigation at the expansive Mwea Irrigation scheme. Led by their Chairman Morris Mutugi, the farmers have vowed not to pay a single cent to the authority, saying the regulations were published in the Kenya gazette secretly without proper public participation “The irrigation authority has failed on its mandate to ensure farmers have adequate water for irrigation as well as environmental conservation and has resulted in harassing farmers who fail to pay water levies,” he said. Currently, Mutugi said, farmers are grappling with a lack of adequate water for irrigation due to the drought that the country is facing.  “Where will farmers get such a huge amount of money, with the high cost of fertilizers, pesticides and other costs of production, this is exploitation,” he said. Local leaders led by Mwea MP Kabinga Wachira have castigated the authority for continued burdening of farmers with punitive charges.
  • Food grains heading to rice mills in the midst of uncertainty

    In the face of uncertainty over procurement of paddy cultivated in the ongoing rabi by the government, farmers have already started moving the harvested crop to private rice mills and selling it well below the minimum support price of ₹1,960 a quintal for fine variety that was more easily marketable. The movement of stocks was only in the case of early crop, which was sown immediately after the season began, while the harvest of late sowings will take another week, sources said.  They added that the millers came forward to purchase the fine variety at over ₹2,000 a quintal initially but the rates dropped to less than ₹1,900 in the last couple of days. At some places, it was even ₹1,750 a quintal.

    Drop in prices

    The drop in prices was attributed to stepped up arrivals at mills which resulted in farmers waiting for their turn for two or three days to dispose of the stocks. The initial arrival of crops that were harvested a fortnight ago which were in smaller quantities fetched good prices for farmers. On the other hand, the Food Corporation of India has refused to accept custom milled rice of 2020-21 rabi season after March 31 though the State government wanted the deadline to be extended by two months.

    Union Minister of State for Tourism G. Kishan Reddy said that the State government was yet to meet its target of 2020-21 rabi despite several reminders. The Centre will keep its commitment to the State for 2020-21 rabi but not the corresponding season which has triggered the stand-off with the State.

  • Rice Market Update: USDA Planting Report is Purely Prospective, Far from Actual

  • Prices remain firm as planting gets underway. The initial USDA Prospective Plantings report just published this week has a much rosier picture than the industry is currently projecting. The table below shows that the total long grain production is expected to be 99% of last year’s total. The industry is predicting a 10-15% decline, or acres looking much closer to 1.65 million acres. This lower acreage number would appear to be baked into paddy prices right now, which are holding firm across all regions despite scant offshore demand. Louisiana is the only region that is expected to gain acres with any significance, and the rest are expected to taper. The actual USDA acreage report is released on June 30 along with an updated rice stocks report. Looking at Medium Grain, the big drop will be coming from drought-plagued California. The USDA is projecting a 315,000 acre medium grain crop from the west coast, but recent water allocations coming out of GCID, the State’s largest water district, are dismal. Initial signals are showing that acreage could fall well below even a 270,000 acre level. Medium grain across the rest of the states will hold relatively constant. It will be interesting to watch planting progress as the weeks tick by and the actual numbers come to light. As far as planting goes, Louisiana has crested the 60% planted now, approaching as high as 70%. Texas is now approximately nearly 50% planted as well, though rain has slowed progress there a bit last week. They are itching to get started in Arkansas, and we expect to have first plantings by this time next week. The March rice stocks report was released this week, showing rough rice stocks in all positions down by 8% from this time last year. To break things out, long grain rough is down by 11%, and long grain milled almost 6% down, medium rough about equal, and medium grain milled rice stocks down nearly 40%. In Asia, Thai prices firmed slightly up to $415pmt, and Viet prices softened just a bit to come down to $415pmt. This is largely based on currency fluctuations and strong demand coming out of China and the usual suspects like the Philippines. India is still holding at steady at $365pmt, and Pakistan is coming in just below at $360pmt. The weekly USDA Export Sales report shows net sales of 17,000 MT for this week, down 80% from the previous week and 71% from the prior 4-week average. Increases were primarily for Guatemala (5,500 MT), Honduras (3,500 MT, including decreases of 400 MT), Mexico (3,300 MT), Canada (2,600 MT), and Saudi Arabia (800 MT). Exports of 27,500 MT were down 49% from the previous week and from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to Guatemala (11,000 MT), Honduras (6,000 MT), Canada (3,300 MT), Mexico (2,700 MT), and Jordan (1,600 MT).
  • Despite rising recognition, Pokkali farmers seek help

  • Pokkali rice from central Kerala, a grain variety that has a geographical indication (GI) tag in 2007, has now become a part of India’s postal stamps.
    Express News Service
    KOCHI: Pokkali rice from central Kerala, a grain variety that has a geographical indication (GI) tag in 2007, has now become a part of India’s postal stamps. In an event organised by Kadamakudy Nellulpathaka Padasekhara Samithi in Kochi, the stamp was released to the public in the presence of Vypeen MLA K N Unnikrishnan, District Collector Jafar Malik and Post Master General of Central Kochi Mariamma Thomas.  The move will help popularise pokkali, a unique rice variety that can grow in saline waters, said K A Thomas, secretary of Kadamakudy Nellulpathaka Padasekhara Samithi. He said the organisation will submit a memorandum to the MLA and the collector detailing the struggles and demands of paddy farmers.  “Pokkali rice is grown without any fertilisers or pesticides — be it organic or chemical. That is what makes pokkali rice unique and highly nutritious. But now, pokkali farmers are struggling to stay afloat. Moreover, the number of paddy fields and farmers producing pokkali has also come down drastically,” said Thomas. The base price set by Supplyco for the rice is Rs 28 per kg. “It is to be noted that many organic varieties are sold at over Rs 100 per kilo. It’s difficult for the farmers to survive when our crops are so underpriced,” Thomas said.   The reduction in the price of prawn varieties, which are farmed in waterlogged pokkali fields after harvest, has made things worse for these farmers. “In 1995, we used to earn nearly Rs 300 per one kilo white shrimps. Now, we get only around Rs 200 even for the highest quality prawns. Pokkali farmers used to depend on prawn farming to survive. But right now, neither of them is fetching us enough money. If we spend around Rs 45,000 for farming pokkali, we earn only around Rs 25,000,” he said. To survive, the organisation has demanded the government revise the base price to Rs 120 per kg. Demands Increase the base price of pokkali rice to I120 Help farmers with basic cultivation needs Help to remove silt from farms Adding pokkali to super-speciality rice category  A governemnt master plan to help the prawn and pokkali farmers
  • To fertilize or not to fertilize: A delicate balance between chalky rice grains and excessive protein content

  • Newswise: To fertilize or not to fertilize: A delicate balance between chalky rice grains and excessive protein content Newswise — March 30, 2022 - There’s a widespread problem in rice growing that you’ve probably never heard of. Rice plants that face elevated temperatures can produce “chalky grains” that are easily crushed during the milling process. This leads to lost profits because the price is lower for chalky grains than undamaged grains. Nitrogen fertilizer can reduce the production of chalky grains. However, too much nitrogen can cause an increase in rice protein levels. Too much protein affects the quality of rice in an undesirable way because of its lower viscosity when cooked. This means that applying nitrogen fertilizer is a delicate balance between preventing chalky grains and keeping protein at an acceptable level. Hiroshi Nakano, a researcher at the Kyushu Okinawa Agricultural Research Center, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Japan, and collaborators are researching one potential solution. This study was recently published in the Agronomy Journal, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy. Farmers can use the tools to predict the chalky grain percentage and protein content in the field. This will allow them to assess how much nitrogen fertilizer they need in real-time. “Our goal is to facilitate the stable production of rice in a changing climate,” Nakano says. “It is important to establish an ideal nitrogen application rate using growth diagnosis. In this study, we identified useful factors to regulate white-back grains (one type of chalky grain) and protein content.” He adds that in Southwestern Japan, rice seedlings are transplanted from mid to late June. The rice grains develop through processes that occur in July, August, and October. There are slight differences in weather and growth each year. This means the exact needs for nitrogen are not always the same. The result is the nitrogen application needs to be adjusted based on growth conditions. “Our mission is to develop ways to protect rice from global climate change,” Nakano says. “In Japan, rice production areas account for approximately 36% of all farming land. In recent years, rice plants have been exposed to higher air temperatures during the ripening stage. This can result in white-back grains.” In their study, the researchers tested two types of measurements using two devices. One looked at the concentration of nitrogen in the leaves of the rice plants. The other measure how much of a plant can uptake nitrogen. The team also determined the best times to take these measurements. Their findings point to the usefulness of the readings for allowing farmers to make real-time adjustments to nitrogen application at an important time during rice production. Heading is the stage of rice growth before flowering. Timing the measurements at the correct time in the plants’ development helped reduce the amount of some chalky grains and regulate the grain protein content. “We recommend that farmers conduct the growth diagnosis by using handheld meters,” Nakano says. “These meters are not expensive, and getting this information will allow them to harvest rice grains with high quality.” However, it can be difficult for farmers to get enough data if they have lots of rice fields. The researchers hope to develop a way to take these measurements using an unmanned aerial vehicle. Nakano adds that being able to help farmers enhance their rice yields while maintaining high quality is important for solving food security issues. A growing global population and rising temperatures are causing these food security issues. “This research is broadly important as the global average temperature is predicted to increase due to global warming,” Nakano says. “The occurrence of white-back grains increases when rice plants ripen under high air temperatures. Rice is a staple food of approximately 50% of the global population. Therefore, this issue is important for farmers but also for consumers.” Support for this research was provided by Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization Biooriented Technology Research Advancement Institution.
  • India’s natural, organic farming strategy for rice and wheat

  • This can help in targeting global export market, thereby feeding the world population and getting valuable foreign exchange for the country India’s natural, organic farming strategy for rice and wheat Photo: iStock India is predominantly agrarian — 80 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Rice and wheat are the staple for 90 per cent of the country’s people.  Till the early 1960’s, the predominant mode of cultivation was what is now called “organic farming”, with no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides available or known.  At that time, farmers relied on cow dung, twigs of leguminous plants like Crotalaria junceaTephrosianeem and jeelugu. These materials mulched the fields ploughed for rice plantation. Oil cakes of groundnut, castor, neem were also used which is a good source of nitrogen.  Since the use of urea from the beginning of the 1960s, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium-based fertilisers became available after the establishment of industrial plants at Sindri (Bihar) Udyog Mandal (Kerala).

    Fortunately, in this decade, synthetic pesticides like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), endrin, and others entered the market. Another spectacular discovery was that of the high-yielding hybrid wheat and rice. The high-yielding wheat was discovered by Norman Borlaug (Nobel Prize winner) and was rapidly adopted by India largely due to the pioneering work of Dr Swaminathan and MV Rao. 

    Swaminathan is remembered as the ‘father of Green Revolution’ and Rao as the “wheat man of India”. With hybrid varieties and synthetic fertilisers and insecticides, the production of rice per acre increased to 40 quintals from 10 quintals, a tremendous victory in fighting hunger. There were also some setbacks during the 1960s and 70s. India’s budget (read agriculture) is dependent on the monsoon season, as George Curzon pointed out in 1905.  Due to drought from 1964-70, India had to import food and became heavily dependent on the United States for wheat supplies under the Public Law 480 agreement. At one time, we were eagerly waiting for the arrival of a ship full of wheat at the Mumbai port. The late former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave a call to “miss a meal” on Monday nights as a part of the Jai Kisan movement.  Green Revolution Ultimately, the Green Revolution was initiated. The theme of the initiative was to boost food grains production of rice and wheat using any method and at any cost. Success followed many setbacks. Biologist-turned-science-writer Rachel Carson published a seminal book called Silent Spring, focused on the harmful effects of pesticides, primarily DDT on our health and environment.  DDT was found to be non-biodegradable and its remnants were traced everywhere — in our body, soil and water. Studies showed its effects on liver and kidneys, including causing cancers.  Scientists rapidly found alternatives and advocated Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a need-based use of pesticides, alternating crops, intercropping as well as usage of bird perches where birds rest, detect insects on crops and eat them.  After DDT, other insecticides like monocrotophos, metasystox, cypermethrin came into use but these are equally harmful to humans, livestock and fish. The “turn to nature” to get pesticide-free food has become a priority. The order of the day is organic farming — natural farming or zero-budget agriculture — which is welcome and most wanted in the agriculture sphere. 

    Not without setbacks

    The first and foremost sound solution is the usage of organic manures from compost, cow dung and ploughing and mulching of leguminous plants. Several plant-based botanical pesticides were discovered. Neem oil, neem kernel extracts, which contain azadirachtin, is the active principle discovered by Germans, the United Kingdom and US.  Neem revived the hope of using harmless pesticides but its availability is very low. Several commercial formulations were available in India. Karanj oil (Karanjin active principle), several leaf extracts like Adathoda and garlic-buds aqueous extracts are found to be effective to some extent as active repellants but they cannot replace synthetic pesticide. There is a growing awareness in India to cultivate the crops by natural fertilisers such as cow dung, leguminous green manures, compost, vermicomposting and biopesticides fungi, bacteria and virus-based  pesticides like Bacillus thuringiensisPseuedomonas aegleTrichoderma verdi.  These bio-pesticides are chiefly produced from diseased insects and soil, among other things. However, it only has limited use on too few fruit and vegetable crops. The problem with the bio-pesticide production is that it is confined to a small industry with no standardisation and doubtful efficacy. Several symposia are held by non-governmental organisations, ideal farmers and governments. Many agricultural magazines hail the miracles of higher yields from organic farming. Particular mention should be made about jeevamrutham — a recently designed concoction called Ramabanam, which gained prominence. These concoctions are made from jaggery, ginger, cow milk, cow curd, cow dung, cow urine, asafoetida. All the ingredients are mixed and fermented for a week, diluted and sprayed on crops.  It is claimed that the product can be used as a fertiliser and a pesticide. The farmers who experimented were quick to endorse the products. Their studies on organic farming presented in symposia on organic farming, however, were confined to few vegetables like tomatoes over a limited area. The yield, the farmers said, is high but not quantified with randomised block design studies.   The active principle of such concoctions is unknown and doesn’t stand scientific security. Moreover, the cost of these concoctions is as high as pesticides and starting products like cow dung are not available in plenty as of today.  For about 90 per cent Indians, rice or wheat are almost exclusively the staple food. So, encouragement of organic farming in a country like India will be meaningful, if applied for rice / wheat. Studies on these crops should also be prioritised. The inconvenient truth, as many farmers put it, is that the land is infertile now without urea in the first few days of rice plantation, and with no application of synthetic pesticides, the entire crop is prone to pests resulting in no yield. The challenge for agriculture scientists is how to maintain the current volume of yield (40 quintals per acre) with organic farming. We need to take with caution some sporadic success stories of organic farming on vegetables and fruits grown in an acre or two. Thus, all the available tools we have with us, like bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides, green manure and vermicompost, their limitation is discussed herein. Constraints of sustainable organic farming are: None of the organic farming tools are available, especially for organic farming of rice that is the staple food in India. Importantly, the whole organic farming depends on cow dung, which is dwindling even as we are particular about their protection (gosamrakshana).  The staple food for cattle is rice straw. While we claim rice production is high and in surplus, the cost of rice remains very high and is not affordable for the poor man. Thus, the increase of cattle population is linked to paddy by rice production. Both are interlinked. Quantification for pesticide residues in food should be done by High Performance Liquid Chromatography / Mass Spectra / Mass Spectra (HPLC / MS / MS) method. The sophisticated method has been adopted by advanced countries but is still not in use in India.  The real structure of crop production is dependent on high-yielding hybrid seeds. Continuous research on high yielding varieties by cross breeding with pest resistant wild varieties is essential.

    Compost from urban areas and vermicompost, in particular, don’t seem to have been examined for pesticide residues and harmful trace elements such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead is needed by using HPLC /MS / MS method and atomic absorption spectroscopy. 

    Introduction of transgenic varieties is not recommended for organic and natural farming. Therefore, it is wise to use the first three sprays on crops with natural organic materials and the last two sprays with synthetic pesticides. Research on organic farming should be done using robust scientific methods only. Surprisingly, rice was found to contain high pesticides and trace elements.  This technique should be standardised in India. Our slogan should be “natural and organic farming with high yields at an affordable price to the common man”. India’s wheat exports surpassed $872 million (2021-22) and rice exports in 2021-22 is likely to surpass the record $10 million, according to the agriculture department of the Government of India. 
  • Monoculture Rice Production Outperformed by Traditional Techniques

  • Monoculture Rice Production Outperformed by Traditional Techniques that Integrate Aquatic Animals (Beyond Pesticides, March 15, 2022) Adding animal diversity to rice paddy farms reduces weed pressure, increases food production, and makes fertilizer use more efficient, according to a study published late last month in the journal eLife. As chemical-dependent, industrialized agriculture has spread across the world, local farmers are increasingly pressured into eschewing traditional agricultural practices in favor of monocultures in an attempt to meet the demands of global markets. This one-size-fits-all approach oversimplifies the interdependency within ecosystems, failing to incorporate the complexity of nature that many traditional and organic practices embrace. As the present study shows, research and investment into systems that promote natural diversity can provide insights that allow these approaches to leapfrog the chemical-dependent, monoculture paradigm of industrial agriculture. Rice paddy fields are intentionally flooded, and crops are often grown in shallow water. In industrialized fields, monocultures of rice are planted out, and fertilizers and weed killers are applied at regular intervals. However, many traditional rice farmers around the world integrate aquatic animals into their paddies. In the present experiment, researchers conducted a 4-year long evaluation comparing the benefits of monoculture production against co-cultures of rice and aquatic animals. Co-culturing animals and rice differs slightly from traditional practices that incorporates the additional direct feeding of aquatic animals for market (in traditional practices, animals generally are not provided supplemental feed). To compare the different systems, researchers established field plots with rice-carp, rice-crab, and rice-turtle co-cultures (these animals are widely eaten in rice-growing regions), as well as a rice monoculture. A mesocosm (an enclosed environment that examines natural processes under controlled conditions) experiment was also established with the same systems to evaluate nutrient efficiency. Animals in the diverse fields were introduced one week after rice transplant, provided with supplemental feed in the form of spent soybean residue (a waste product after soybean oil is extracted), and remained in the fields until rice harvest. When compared to monoculture rice production, rice yield was on average 8% higher in the rice-turtle system, 9% higher in the rice-carp co-culture, and 12% higher for rice-crabs. Animal yields were 2.66, 0.85, and 0.56 metric tons per hectare for the rice-turtle, rice-carp, and rice-crab systems, respectively. Prior research conducted by the authors found that rice-turtle, rice-carp, and rice-crab systems increased total economic output by 710%, 205%, and 78%, respectively, over a monoculture rice system. The diversified animal system also significantly lowered weed pressure on the farms in comparison to the monoculture fields. Weeds and other food (e.g., algae, plankton) from the paddy environment ended up comprising a significant portion of the aquatic animals’ food; for carp, crab, and turtle systems, 50%, 35%, and 16%, respectively. The researchers used no herbicide in any of the experimental plots, and there is evidence from the diverse plots that no herbicide use would be needed based on the weed pressure alleviated. Diverse animal paddies also displayed faster rates of organic matter decomposition, indicating improved nutrient cycling. In the mesocosm experiments, feed that was not consumed by animals made its way into the crop, accounting for upwards of 30% of rice biomass. Compared to the monoculture fields, by the end of the experiment soil nitrogen content was higher in animal fields. In aquatic rice cultures, the introduction of animals represented a multifunctional boon – reducing weed pressure, increasing nutrient recycling and availability, and subsequently yields. This process provided significant benefits to farmers, who received a higher price for their work. The authors note, “Although costs of the cocultures are higher than the costs of monoculture because of the feed input and increased labor required for the management of two species, net income was still higher for cocultures than for monocultures because of the higher prices of the products and the reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides.” The forced simplicity of monoculture farming in a diverse and complex environment is ultimately unsustainable. It is common sense that clearing land of all flora and fauna and replacing it solely with human-focused crops leads to biodiversity decline and the loss of pollinators and other beneficial species, but scientific research has backed up these judgements. Agricultural soils under monocultures are not nearly as healthy as those that embrace diversity. Soil organic matter and nutrient cycling, critical for sustainable crop growth, is lower in monoculture systems by two to three fold, according to recent research. The solution is as simple as the problem that was created. Adding back in plant diversity and moving from monoculture to multi-cropping systems produces higher biomass and seed yields, and reduces pest pressure and the need for pesticide use. Organic agriculture provides the closest approximation to the sustainable food system the future requires. While organic has not yet eliminate monocultures, it requires farmers to maintain or improve soil health, which has the effect of encouraging practices that embrace natural diversity and complexity. Organic laws and rulemaking also support the concept of continuous improvement, incentivizing the development of safer and more sustainable practices once they become available. Naysayers of diverse organic systems point to yield gaps and cost, but fail to recognize the research and development gap between conventional and organic. As this study reveals, analysis of an enhanced traditional cropping system displays yield gains over an industrialized approach. With further research and development into traditional and organic cropping systems, the next agricultural revolution has the potential to be significantly more sustainable than the current paradigm. For more information on the benefits of organic see Beyond Pesticides Why Organic webpage. All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
  • Two Basmati rice varieties help boost export.

  • Two Basmati rice varieties help boost exports, farmers’ income

    Both the varieties, developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, Delhi, fetch farmers like Singh financial benefits in the range of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per acre, after taking into account cost of cultivation as well as lease rental for the land.

    basmati-rice Pritam Singh, who farms on 110 acres, including some land taken on lease, at Urlana Khurd village of Haryana’s Panipat district, has just sold his harvest of Basmati rice varieties — PB 1121 and PB 1509 — at the local mandi at Rs 3,800 and Rs 3,500 a quintal, respectively. Both the varieties, developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, Delhi, fetch farmers like Singh financial benefits in the range of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per acre, after taking into account cost of cultivation as well as lease rental for the land. “Since the introduction of high-yielding varieties like PB1121 and PB1509, the production as well as quality in terms of size of the Basmati rice grain increased thus bringing economic benefits to us,” Singh told FE. Singh said prior to the introduction of these two varieties, the yield of traditional varieties was in the range of 12 –13 quintal per acre, while the PB1121 and PB1509 varieties have an average yield of 24 quintal and 26 quintal per acre, respectively. While the high-yielding and larger-grained PB1121 variety was certified as Basmati rice in 2008, the PB1509, which takes fewer weeks for maturity, was released in 2013. Two Basmati rice varieties developed by IARI have contributed 70% of the total value of cumulative exports of long-grain aromatic rice from India worth Rs 2.38 lakh crore between 2010 and 2019, thus bringing benefit to farmers. India exported on an average 3.74 million tonne (mt) of Basmati rice annually during the stated period, of total production of around 5 mt. According to an analysis by IARI of the economic value accrued because of Basmati rice, Rs 1.66 lakh crore worth of export earnings between 2010 and 2019 was from the shipment of PB1121 and PB1509 rice varieties, while domestic sales were to the tune of Rs 51,501 crore in the same period. After deducting the cost of production, the IARI assessment has stated that Rs 1.34 lakh crore has been accrued as earnings to estimated 10 lakh farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, who grow two varieties of aromatic and long grained rice. “Improved Basmati varieties have brought prosperity to millions of Basmati farmers by improving their standards of living, better education for children and best health care for family members,” Ashok Kumar Singh, director, IARI, told FE. During 2010-2019, annually, Basmati rice was grown in 18.34 lakh hectares on an average, out of which PB11121 and PB1509 was grown in 67% and 10% of the area, respectively. The rest of the varieties grown by farmers include PB1, PB6 and PB1718, which are also developed by IARI. ajor export destinations of India’s Basmati rice include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and the UAE, besides some European countries. India exported Basmati rice worth Rs 29,849 crore ($4018 million) in 2020-21. Recently, IARI has released improved varieties PB1847, PB1885 and PB1886; these are improved varieties with inbuilt resistance to bacterial blight and blast diseases. “These varieties would reduce the use of pesticides significantly in basmati cultivation,” Ranjith Kumar Ellur, scientist, rice section, division of genetics, IARI, said.