SRI method of paddy sowing may be answer to depleting groundwater

A handful of agricultural scientists in Punjab may have found a solution to the problem of the state's rapidly lowering groundwater level. Groundwater in Punjab, over-exploited during the paddy sowing season, has reached dangerous lows.

The answer to this may be in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a new method of paddy sowing that could save huge amount of water that is required for the usual method of sowing.

The SRI method was initially developed in Madagascar by a Jesuit agriculturist, Fr Henri de Laulanie. In India, so far, its use has been limited to experiments by the agriculture department and to a few scientists.

Agriculture Development Officer Dr Amrik Singh has been one of the first to promote this technique in Punjab. Currently posted in Gurdaspur, he has been sowing paddy through the SRI method and educating the farmers to do so for the past five years. "I have been able to save 10 lakh liters of water per acre by using SRI," he said.

With the help of this method, Singh has sown paddy in a one hectare area in Gurdaspur and in four demonstration plots in Hoshiarpur district. "Under this method, 10 to 12-days- old seedlings are transplanted against 35-days older seedlings in the traditional method and puddling (converting the field into a pool of water) is not required, as only moist soil is needed for this," he said. Singh pointed out that SRI can also increase the yield on a farm. Farmers are used to planting crops at distances of 10 to 15 cm, but SRI planting distances start at 25 cm. "Owing to proper spacing, the plants produce much more tillers — 20 upwards, instead of the usual 5-10 tillers. The more tillers, the more grain, the greater the harvest," he said.

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