The theme of this year’s Thirteenth National Rice Day is “ Basis of commercial rice farming – Extension of community nurseries “.
Rice is the predominant cereal crop in South Asia. As per the preliminary estimate of Fiscal Year 2016/2017, the rice crop was grown in 13,62,908 hectares with the production of 42,99,078 metric tons and the productivity was 3.154 ton/ha.
There is less possibility of bringing more lands into production. Therefore, we have to increase the productivity per hectare per day by knowledge- and science-based farming. The promising rice varieties plus successful technologies generated by agriculture research play a pivotal role.
Nepal so far has released and registered more than one hundred rice varieties with full package of practices within the span of about fifty (50) years. The coverage by improved rice varieties in Nepal is 93%.
Some of the popular rice varieties among farmers are Radha-4, Radha-12, Sabitri, Bindeswori, Hardinath-1 in Tarai, Khumal-4, Khumal-11, Chainung-242 in mid-hills and Chandannath-3, Kekali 1, Lekali 3 in high-hills.
Nepal has also the highest altitude (9,000-10,000 ft) in the world, Chhumchaur, Jumla where rice is cultivated. The modern varieties can express their yield potentiality only when recommended packages are practiced.
Quality seeds alone can contribute 15-20% in yield. Seed selection can be done by following the specific gravity principle. Early paddy and boro (winter) rice can be used for increasing rice yield by utilizing the higher intensity of solar radiation, i.e using sun to end hunger.
The system of rice intensification (SRI) is the other agronomic manipulation which can increase rice yield. The plant growth regulators (PGRs) can also be used for increasing rice productivity.
In 2073 B.S., Nepal celebrated the Thirteenth National Rice Day on Asar 15 (29th June, 2012) by eating curd/yoghurt with beaten rice.
Because of the good performance of Nepal during the International Year of Rice – 2004, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in its Rice Today (Vol.3, No.3, 2004) had written one article mentioning “Year Achieves High-Profile in Nepal”.
Rice is number one cereal crop in Nepal. Not only is rice a key source of food, it is also a major employer and source of income for the poor.
The world food problem is created because of urbanization, crop diversification, fallow land, low investment in agricultural research and development, climate change, conversion of food crops like maize into bio-fuels.
China has banned the conversion of maize into bio-fuels. Rice is also the staple food for more than 50% of the world’s population (3.5 billion). Moreover, more than 90% rice is produced as well as consumed in Asian countries. So, rice trade is only about 6-7%. China and India produce about 50% of the Asia’s rice.
So, rice brings the Asians together. The present rice production is 481 million tons. In 2007-2008, there was a global food crisis but a few months later global financial crisis emerged and it eclipsed the food crisis.
Our constitution says people have right to food too. The United Nations Organization (UNO) had also declared 2004 as the “International Year of Rice “ with the theme “Rice is Life”. The United Nations also had declared rice as the “Crop of the Year“ in 1966 with the theme “Freedom from Hunger” because at that time hunger was a big story in Asia.
There is less possibility of bringing more lands into production. Therefore, we have to increase the productivity per hectare per day by successful technological interventions.
The internal rate of return (IRR) in agriculture research is very high. It is said that to get success, there should be “research push and market pull”. Rice seeds can be selected based on the principle of specific gravity.
Early paddy and boro (winter) rice can be used for increasing rice yield by utilizing higher intensity of solar radiation especially after flowering. The system of rice intensification (SRI) is the other way of agronomic manipulation which can increase rice yield.
Had the yield of rice remained at its pre-green revolution level of 1.9 t/ha, current production would have required more than double the current rice land area and 50% of the forest areas would have been reduced.
A few years back Newsweek magazine had reported that since the last 30 years, the global water supply has been halved. What will happen 30 years from now? So water-saving technologies or wise use of water is a must.
In theory, three to five thousand litres of water is needed to produce one kilogram of paddy. Drought tolerant rice varieties with less water consuming agronomical manipulations are needed to combat global warming.
Food security, nutrition security, profitability and sustainability are the major issues at present and in the future.
Last but not the least, because of global food issues plus increased food prices, Government of Nepal should immediately form a high-level National Food Security Mission, involving field-hardened experts with proven track records including concrete plan of action with fixed priorities and assured budgetary allocation.
Food self-sufficiency is the ur gent demand of the present time. If Nepal is not self-reliant in food grain, a situation may come when we cannot buy food grain even if we have money in our pockets.
Basnet is a retired senior rice expert with Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC)