The Bengaluru-based KisanKraft intends to take the 'aerobic rice' technology to five states during this kharif season and conduct demonstrations to reach out to more farmers.

KisanKraft is a designer, importer and distributor of affordable farming equipment suited to the needs of small and marginal farmers.

Excellent solution

According to Ravindra K Agrawal, Promoter and Managing Director, KisanKraft, the aerobic rice technology is an excellent solution for water-stressed paddy farmers. It could prove to be a lifesaver for the country, farmers and help in restoring soil conditions while contributing to national food security, he told BusinessLine .

Aerobic rice is direct-seeded into the field, eliminating the cost of raising nursery, transplantation and its related impact on labour health. Direct seeding also reduces ‘seed rate’ dramatically.

There is no puddling and no standing water, hence costs associated with the use of water and pumping cost is also minimised. It also ensures saving of more than 60 per cent in water and 55 per cent in labour. Use of fertiliser is reduced since it no longer washes off with excess water.

Carbon footprint

Certain pests and diseases don’t breed in aerobic conditions, therefore, use of chemicals is also reduced. A lot of aerobic rice varieties have been released in India and abroad, Agrawal said.

Paddy fields today are known to be one of the biggest agricultural anthropogenic sources of green house gases (nitrous oxide and methane, in particular).

"Aerobic rice severely reduces these gases by eliminating standing water, and thus, as a nation, we can reduce our carbon footprint and accrue carbon credits," Agrawal added.

All this is possible without any compromise in grain yield. Mixed cropping and crop rotation practices are possible. Soil health improves since continuous mono-culture is curtailed.

Asked if the extent of mechanisation involved in aerobic rice farming could invite fears of labour displacement and associated protest, Agrawal replied in the negative.

Labour shortage

"On the contrary, there is an acute shortage of farm labour and that is the reason farm-mechanisation among small farmers is growing very fast here."

Except the Himalayas, the coastal areas and the hilly areas (with excess water), the rest of the country can grow aerobic rice. Black cotton soil and lowlands in submerged water conditions are unsuitable.

The primary reason why aerobic rice has not become popular option here is the insufficient extension work by agriculture universities, Agrawal said.

The universities also lack resources and are largely focused on yield rather than water conservation. "Also 85 per cent of farmers in the country have small plots with low risk-taking capacity. There is an overwhelming fear that adoption of new technologies is a gamble with their livelihood."