Sunday, February 21, 2016

Media release: A revolutionary approach increases rice production in Indonesia

Fast facts:

Tidal swamp lands in South Sumatra, Indonesia, were affected by a high incidence of rodent and weed pests, and labor shortage, making it difficult for smallholder farmers to grow rice in the dry season.

The IRRI-CORIGAP project worked with the Indonesia Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology in disseminating an integrated best management approach to help farmers increase farm productivity by increasing yields in the monsoon season and growing a rice crop in the dry season.

The new approach promotes environmentally sustainable rice production. Increasing farm productivity lessens the need to clear lands for cultivation using fire, which creates environmental and health hazards.

INDONESIA, 23 February 2016-- In South Sumatra, thousands of hectares of tidal swamp lands , which were previously unproductive in the dry season, are now being cultivated in the dry season using improved and environmentally sustainable methods of rice farming.

Not so long ago, these areas produced a good monsoon rice crop but attempts by farmers to grow a dry season crop were beleaguered by massive damage from rodents and weeds, and high crippling labor shortage.

“The moderate yields of rice during the wet season, and practically zero yield during the dry season, meant that there was less income for farmers,” said Dr. Harmanto, Director of the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technologies (AIAT) in South Sumatra. “To combat poverty and health risks from poor environmental management of agricultural lands, we sought to optimize the potential of the swamp lands for rice production that is environmentally sustainable.”

The Indonesian government began a new collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) through a project called CORIGAP (Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint), which works on closing rice yield gaps without compromising environmental sustainability. The project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and by the government of Indonesia.

A key area of focus was increasing the intensity of rice production in the tidal swamps of South Sumatra. In 2012, in the Telang and Saleh deltas of South Sumatra, the average rice yields in the monsoon season were 3.9 tons per hectare, and only 30 hectares of rice were grown in the dry season. The quantity of rice yield brought in low income for the farmers and did not optimize the area’s potential for rice production.

In 2013, a partnership was forged, through the CORIGAP project, among IRRI, the Directorate of Food Crops, the provincial agricultural services, and the South Sumatra AIAT.

During the 2013 dry season, the team set up sites in farmers’ fields to demonstrate effective weed and rodent management, and introduce the drum seeder that reduced labor costs during crop establishment.

In 2014, the areas planted with rice increased to 300 hectares during the dry season, and the yields on field demonstration sites during the monsoon season produced more than 6 tons per hectare.

By 2015, through the Special Efforts Program of the Ministry of Agriculture, rice yields in farmers’ fields during the monsoon season reached 4.5–6 tons per hectare. And approximately 20,000 hectares of farm land along the Telang and Saleh deltas in South Sumatra were able to grow dry season rice with yields of up to 2.5–3 tons per hectare.

In addition, the increase in rice productivity eliminates the need to clear land for cultivation, thereby reducing the incidence of wildfires. In the past years, the haze caused by the wildfires posed serious environmental effects and health threats to people.

Improving the productivity of rice areas in Indonesia can bring the nation closer to its target of increasing rice production to 82.1 million tons by 2019. The average Indonesian consumes about 126 kilograms of rice a year. Indonesians spend 60% of their income on food, 25% of which is spent on rice.

The CORIGAP project is also supporting the efforts of Yogyakarta AIAT, by reaching farmers who would benefit from integrated best management approaches for increasing rice productivity. Thus, by helping farmers close the rice yield gap, the quest for Indonesia to become self-sufficient in rice production is a step closer.

“The goals of CORIGAP align with AIAT’s national policy of GP-PTT (Gerakan Penerapan Pengelolaan Tanaman Terpadu or Implementation Action of Integrated Crop Management), which led to the widespread adoption of technologies,” said Dr. Grant Singleton, coordinator of CORIGAP and a principal scientist at IRRI.

The CORIGAP approach includes water- saving techniques, savings on labor for crop establishment using a legowo drum seeder, ecologically based rodent and weed management, and improved postharvest management of rice. The new approaches also promote environmentally sustainable rice production.

To continue upscaling and outscaling the gains from the collaboration of AIAT and CORIGAP, scientists and researchers from Vietnam, Thailand, China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia will be holding their 3rd Annual Review and Planning Meeting on 23-25 February in AIAT, Yogyakarta.