IRRI develops sustainable agricultural technologies to bolster production in Asia

ASIA – The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are pursuing ways to increase investment for sustainable agricultural technologies.

IRRI and ADB have completed a technical assistance project to help governments identify and prioritize appropriate climate-resilient agricultural technologies and practices for high-impact investment.

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Under the ADB technical assistance, IRRI and select national research organizations piloted the “Climate-smart practices and varieties for intensive rice-based systems in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Cambodia” project.

The pilot project focused on three major components – which revealed that rice fields are threatened annually by climate-related stresses and are further aggravated by limited landholdings and farmer knowledge.

The project sought to identify constraints, policy, institutional support, and logistics needed to scale up climate-smart water-saving mechanized technologies as well as demonstrate climate-smart agricultural practices (CSAs) related to rice-based systems.

Through the collaboration, IRRI and ADB developed a database along with evidence of benefits from CSAs using participatory approaches.

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“This collaboration sets forward a proven climate-responsive framework that is built out of the current realities of smallholders in these climate-vulnerable areas,” said Arvind Kumar, the project’s lead from IRRI.

Climate-smart agric technologies increasing production

Technologies and methods tested included alternate wetting and drying and mechanized direct-seeded rice, the distribution of better rice varieties (high yielding, with short duration and better grain quality), introduction of mechanization for crop establishment and rice harvesting.

The intensification and diversification of rice-based cropping systems in target areas were also prioritized for the pilot.

The farmers were also exposed to ICT tools such as Rice Crop Manager (RCM) for agro-advisory and market information and were given provisions for a crop insurance program.

According to IRRI, farmers in Nepal cited positive returns from the introduction of direct-seeded rice technology and mechanization and expressed their support for the scaling up of these interventions for their next cropping season.

In Bangladesh, water savings of 32 percent was recorded based on the results in the pilot areas of 15 farmer-respondents using alternate wetting and drying and continuous standing water (CSW) irrigation methods.

Total greenhouse gases emissions for a cropping season were also 41 percent lower for the climate-smart system than for the farmers’ traditional practice during the boro season under AWD irrigation than under the CSW method.

Similarly, labor savings of 43%–49% (in number of person-hours) was noted in Cambodia under the direct-seeded rice system.

Among the most significant outcomes in Nepal was from the farmers’ use of the mechanized seed drill in lentil production, which showed that from the whole-plot harvest, two of the three participating farmers exceeded the national average.

According to IIRI, individual findings across all sites were further validated and substantiated at separate in-country high-level consultative policy workshops in July where stakeholders provided inputs on how to successfully adopt the proposed sustainable agricultural packages.

“The ultimate goal is to equip agricultural decision-makers with tailored, evidence-based, comprehensive plans that they can set forward,” said Akmal Siddiq, Sustainable Development and Climate Change (SDCC), ADB.

“This enables more small scale farmers in other climate-affected areas to learn and gain more with fewer inputs, time, and energy, while minimizing agriculture’s impact on people and the planet.”

IRRI hopes that the project provides a basis to discuss and identify future needs for collaborative partnerships and investments to deliver science-based solutions that address challenges in crop and rice production in more climate-vulnerable areas in Asia.

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