Farmers in several leading rice-growing States are shifting to direct-seeding method with rains getting delayed and the availability of labour becoming a challenge.

This method, which is in vogue in small pockets across the country, allows the farmers to go ahead with sowing of the seed without having to wait for rainfall and without the need for spending a month on growing paddy nurseries and planting them — both tasks require heavy manpower.

“Using drum seeders, two labourers can complete sowing on one acre in a day. In the traditional method of sowing seedlings, you will need at least 25-30 labourers. Besides, you will save at least 30 days that is required to grow nurseries,” Dr Mahendra Kumar, a senior scientist with the Indian Institute of Rice Rice Research (IIRR), told businessline.

Working with NGO

Reports suggest that the total paddy area under the new method is 10 lakh hectares (lh), including 6-6.5 lh in Punjab and one lh in Telangana. Farmers in some pockets of Andhra Pradesh, too, are following this method.

“We are working with an NGO in Andhra Pradesh, which is using the direct-seeding method on about 4,000 hectares. The method would result in savings up to ₹10,000 an acre,” he said.

The new method reduces the requirement for water by about 15 per cent as the logging of water happens only after a month or so. 

Way forward

Dr J Hemanth Kumar, Programme Coordinator and Head of Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Wyra, says this method holds promise.

“It is the way forward for paddy crop. Besides addressing the labour shortage, which has become a major challenge for farmers, this method will allow the farmers to go ahead with sowing, without having to wait for copious rains as required by the traditional method,” he said.

He cited the example of Kandukuru area where tanks fill up only in late July-August due to delayed rains. “The direct-seeding method allows them to save time as the initial growth would require far less water than in the traditional sowing. Overall, it reduces the crop life by 10 days,” he points out.

This, in turn, allows the farmers start the rabi season early and harvest by March-end, saving the farmers from untimely rains towards the harvesting phase. This, he feels, is in tune with the recent Telangana Government decision to advance the kharif and rabi seasons by 3-4 weeks to reduce crop losses due to untimely rains and hailstorms as happened this year.

Ch Ravinder Reddy, a farmer in Kandukur in Khammam district, agrees. “Almost all of the farmers in the mandal have been following this method for the last few years. There is no change in yields,” he says.

Weed challenges

However, the biggest challenge in the direct-seeding method is the problem of weeds.

“Weed begins to grow along with paddy. In the traditional method, the seedling is about 3-4 week old, allowing it out beat the weed growth. Also, water-logging since Day 1 gives little scope for the weed to grow. But the good news is, there are good herbicides available to take care of this problem,” Jagadeeshwar, former Director of Research with Prof. Jayashankar Telangana Statea Agricultural University, says.