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Innovative climate friendly rice production in Central Thailand

More than 180 invited farmers from Central Thailand acquired first hand experience on climate friendly rice production from project farmers, experts from the Department of Agriculture Extension (DoAE) and Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) during the Farmers Field Day organized at village Ban Nongri in Ratchaburi province of Thailand.

Innovative climate friendly rice production in Central Thailand

Farmers with SRI seedlings

The field day was aimed at sharing and disseminating newly developed knowledge to other farmers from the community as well as other stakeholders engaged in rice production systems in the Central Thailand.

Participants included 120 farmers from Pathumthani and Suphanburi provinces; 12 farmers from local partners of Coastal Resources Institute (CORIN), Nakhon Srithammarat;10 students from Agriculture faculty of King Mongkut Institute of Technology along with three persons from Thailand Environment Institute, which is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) appointed Network of Research Institutes for Sustainable Development (NETRES) partner.

The season-long participatory action research and associated Farmers Field School (FFS) was supported by the rice research team of Agricultural Systems and Engineering (ASE) Field of Study, School of Environment Resources and Development (SERD) of AIT under the overall framework of a competitive grant project titled “Community preparedness for climate change and increased water use efficiency for rice cultivation using principles of System of Rice Intensificiation (SRI) in Central Thailand.” This project was funded under the UNEP’s APFED Showcase Project 2008.

The project assumes special significance in the wake of the ongoing dry-spell in the Thailand where 14,000 villages in 36 provinces were severally affected. The DoAE has undertaken the project implementation under the “Royal Initiative”. In addition, climate change variability is further likely to aggravate the situation along with the pressing issues of deteriorating soil fertility and pest and diseases stresses.

The field experiments using Farmers’ Field School (FFS) platform were aimed to adapt the principles of SRI to develop socio-economically compatible technology to enhance the productivity of rice using less water. The experiments also prepare farmers against the negative externalities of climate change. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) trainers of DoAE imparted additional training to enhance practical understanding on biodiversity conservation to minimize the insect-pest damage to the crop.

Among the five tested treatments, the SRI and adapted SRI-Parachute plots performed better than others. In these replicated plots, rice yield of 8.25 tons per hectare were harvested in both SRI and SRI-Parachute compared to 5-6 tons per hectare in the farmer’s practice plot. The SRI and SRI-Parachute treatments received less seed, less water and no pesticide; whereas the farmer’s practice plot used local practices involving higher seed rate, more water and excessive use of pesticides. One of the most interesting features of FFS was the adaptation of the existing parachute method of rice planting utilizing the principles of SRI.

The project reveals that production efficiency needs to be optimized in changing water and climate scenario in order to increase the "crop per drop" given the importance of rice production in Asia in general, and in Thailand in particular. The project results reconfirm the existence of an opportunity to enhance crop yields, improve water use efficiency, and develop ‘climate proofed’ rice management practices using SRI principles. More details on the project can be obtained from Dr. Abha Mishra and Dr. Prabhat Kumar  of AIT.

Project farmers, experts, trainers and students from King Mongkut Institute of Technology at village Ban Nongri in Ratchaburi province of Thailand.