As rice is grown in India’s 45 per cent rain-fed area, as well as 55 per cent irrigated area, the average usage of water to produce one kilogram of rice is not 4,000-5,000 litres, rather it is about 1,500 litres, said Himanshu Pathak, Director-General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Inaugurating the two-day annual conference of All India Coordinated Research Project on Rice (AICRPR) in Delhi, Pathak said that the usage of water in irrigated area in the north may be higher, but the average use is not that high.

Previously, some experts claimed that up to 5,000 litres of water were used to produce one kg of rice, advocating for production restrictions. However, many agricultural scientists at the conference caution against hasty crop diversification decisions. They emphasise the challenge of managing rice shortages due to its significant consumption in India. A scientist highlighted that while other commodities might remain available to import, rice could not be found in sufficient quantity in any other parts in case there is import requirement.

At the AICRPR, rice breeders across the country discuss the results of last released varieties and plan for the next year by identifying the relevant issues on which research has to based.

Pathak also asked the scientists to focus on innovation in research and development towards realising the vision of a resilient and sustainable rice production system in India.

DSR method

Speaking to businessline, AK Singh, Director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), said that Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) technique is the answer to reduce water usage in rice and ICAR has been promoting it for last few years. However, it hasn’t gained momentum as expected, primarily due to low awareness and the unavailability of suitable machinery at affordable rates.

Singh, a well-known rice breeder and regarded as India’s Basmati man, said that at least 30 per cent water is saved when DSR technique is followed in place of conventional nursery and transplanting method.

Commenting on the menace of weed, Singh said that the herbicide tolerant rice varieties are already released and plants will not be affected when herbicides are sprayed. He cited the examples of Pusa Basmati 1979 and Pusa Basmati 1985, both of which are herbicide-tolerant.

Singh also suggested more States should promote the DSR technique, citing examples such as the Haryana government providing ₹4,000/acre incentive and the Punjab government offering ₹1,500/acre to farmers for its adoption.

Among others, Ajay Kohli, interim Director General of International Rice Research Institute; TR Sharma, Deputy Director General (crops) of ICAR; DK Yadava, Assistant Director General (seeds) of ICAR, and AK Nayak, Director of National Rice Research Institute, were present at the conference.