February 25, 2018, 3:37 am
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Direct-seeding to reduce rice production costs

Direct-seeding, which uses pre-germinated seeds sown directly on the soil surface, reduces high labor costs in rice farming according to scientists at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

This is because direct-seeded rice matures earlier than transplanted rice, lowering labor requirements and expenses for crop establishment and the time spent on crop management. It can be done two ways. 

“The dry direct-seeding method is more commonly used in rainfed and upland areas,” said PhilRice agronomist Myrna Malabayabas. “It involves sowing of pre-germinated seeds on dry soil surface and then incorporating the seeds either by ploughing or harrowing.

“Wet direct-seeding, on the other hand, is practiced during dry and wet seasons in irrigated and rainfed areas. It is done either through broadcasting or drilling pre-germinated seeds with the use of a drum-seeder on a wet, well-leveled paddy,” Malabayabas added.

For direct-seeding, PhilRice recommends three varieties that are early maturing, resistant to drought, and can attain a maximum yield of at least 6 tons per hectare. These are NSIC Rc272 (Sahod Ulan 2) which matures 110 days after sowing and yields 6.4 t/ha; NSIC Rc348 (Sahod Ulan 12), maturity at 103 days after sowing (5 t/ha maximum yield); and NSIC Rc346 (Sahod Ulan 11), which matures 105 days after sowing and yields 6.2 t/ha.

PhilRice has determined that P4.42 is spent on labor cost for every kilogram of rice on transplanting while P3.28 is spent on direct-seeding. In direct-seeding method, farmers can save up to P1.14 on labor cost for every kilogram of rice they produce and 23-man days for every hectare of their field.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), direct seeding is more rapidly and easily planted, less labor intensive, andmore conducive to mechanization. It alsoconsumes less irrigation water, matures earlier, and has fewer methane emissions. 

Overall analysis of 77 published studies showed that various methods of direct seeding reduced the cost of production compared with conventional transplanting methods.

IRRI is promoting Direct-Seeded Rice (DSR) technology in South and Southeast Asia and launched this month the DSR Consortium (DSRC) focusing on improving mechanized and precise direct-seeding practices to help farmers maximize its full benefits.

“DSR is a more resource-efficient, climate-resilient, and sustainable alternative agricultural system to manual transplanting but gaps are still present,” said Virender Kumar, IRRI senior scientist and DSRC coordinator. “Many agronomic DSR practices have become inefficient because of lack of mechanization, precision application, and proper education, hence the prevalent preference for manual systems.”

“This consortium will strengthen collaboration between public and private sectors and eventually will lead to availability of resource-efficient and sustainable production practices and technologies not just for relevant business entities but also the small holder farmers across Asia,” said Jacqueline Hughes, IRRI deputy director general for research. “We want to encourage a richer exchange of ideas, knowledge, and technologies to overcome key constraints in this initiative.”

In direct seeding, weeds germinate simultaneously with rice due to the absence of water that suppresses weed growth. Among the ways to manage weeds are narrow spacing and uniform plant population, appropriate water depth and timing, use of weed-competitive varieties and herbicide rotation and combination.

Weeds can be controlled through stale seedbed technique used in field with large weed seed bank. It can greatly reduce the weeds because of the two-month fallow period between harvest and sowing, which allows weeds to emerge before they are killed.

Herbicides may be used depending on the type of weeds. No single herbicide can control all weeds in the rice crop.

Another method is weeding by hand or by machine. Weeds are practically impossible to control by manual weeding by hand. However, one or two spot hand weeding can be done to remove weeds that escape herbicide application and to prevent weed seed production and the accumulation of weed seeds in the soil. In mechanical weeding, motorized cono and other hand weeders can be used. 
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