Water-Saving Rice Production Systems

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The first and second World Water Conference in Marrakech and The Hague, respectively, have catalysed much political and scientific debate on the use of water to meet the growing needs of the global human population and of natural ecosystems. At the second conference in March 2000, various vision documents were presented which are currently being implemented. This report describes the result of an action project in the field of water for food and rural development program that is implemented and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries. The overall goal of the project is to design and demonstrate successful, high-yielding lowland rice production systems with low water input in five major rice granaries in China, India, Indonesia and Madagascar, and to analyze their impact on farm-households and on the regional hydrology in the selected areas. An inception workshop on this project was held at Nanjing Agricultural University, China from 2 to 4 April, 2001 of which this report presents the proceedings. The objectives of the meeting were: To discuss the state of the art with respect to water-saving rice production systems and to exchange knowledge about such systems. To exchange knowledge about tools enabling the analysis of the impact of water-saving rice production systems at various scale levels (field, farm and region). To identify feasible research goals. To define a research program for the year 2001 and beyond that contributes to the realization of these goals. Various participants of the workshop (e.g. China, India, Indonesia and Madagascar) showed that it is possible to achieve rice yields with water-saving techniques equivalent to or higher show yields from conventional flooding systems. However, no systematic research has been done to understand the performance of water-saving rice systems, to examine overall resource use, to estimate the overall water-saving and to stimulate adoption of such systems. To enable a more systematic approach to design and demonstrate successful water-saving rice production systems three project goals were identified: (i) evaluate whether water, land and labor productivity can be increased simultaneously in water-saving rice production systems, (ii) demonstrate the benefits of such systems for resource-poor farmers, and (iii) quantify the potential regional water savings and reallocation options compared to other options. Nine research topics were identified that should get priority in future research on water-saving rice production systems. These research priorities range from field to regional scale and contribute differently to realization of the project goals: (1) weeding/aeration, (2) biological nitrogen fixation, (3) transplanting, (4) crop establishment, (5) cultivars, (6) nutrient management, (7) regional hydrology, (8) farmers welfare, and (9) water quality. The participants from China, India, Indonesia and Madagascar defined research programs related to their ongoing research agendas, location-specific interests and expertise. In these countries various research and demonstration experiments will be carried out, each including one or more of the identified research priorities. The project generates three important outputs: (i) consolidation of current and generation of new knowledge on water-saving rice production systems that enables to identify the potentials of such systems for different agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions; (ii) capacity building and exchange of knowledge, both between North-South and South-South. Since MSc and PhD students participate in the project, young scientists from developing countries are trained in analysis and integration of knowledge with respect to rice production systems; (iii) new information on water-saving rice production systems that increases awareness among various stakeholders (from farmers to local policy makers) and contributes to the international debate on water for food.