IRRI seeks DSR suppot
DSRC members with IRRI DDGR Jacqueline Hughes load seeds in a mechanical direct seeder for ceremonial planting. Photo courtesy of IRRI.
LOS BAÑOS, THE PHILIPPINES — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is targeting more public-private support to address key challenges in the successful and wider adoption of Direct-Seeded Rice (DSR) systems in South and Southeast Asia.

Presented during the recent launch of the Direct-Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC), IRRI’s main proponent for the initiative, were priority areas for DSR research with particular focus on improving mechanized and precise direct-seeding practices to help current DSR end-users 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.”

DSR systems are more rapidly and easily planted, less labor intensive, consume less irrigation water, mature earlier, are more conducive to mechanization, and have fewer methane emissions. Overall analysis of 77 published studies shows that various methods of direct seeding reduced the cost of production by $9 — 125 ha compared with conventional transplanting methods.

The IRRI noted, while DSR is widely practiced in many Asian countries such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines, Manual Puddled Transplanted Rice (PTR) system is still the predominant method for rice establishment in most parts of Asia. Other setbacks to its wider adoption are DSR-associated risks, including weed infestation and yield losses.

To address these gaps and ease end-users’ transition from PTR to DSR, the consortium will propose science-based, scalable solutions for precise crop and weed management, characterizing areas suitable for DSR, GIS-guided sowing windows and crop modelling approaches, and efficient evaluation of new superior rice cultivars adapted to DSR conditions.

“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, deputy director general for research at the IRRI.

Gustavo Palerosi Carneiro, head of BASF’s Crop Protection Division in Asia Pacific and co-convenor of the DSRC added, “This partnership with IRRI will expand our reach and expertise, and we are confident that this will contribute to the faster and wider dissemination of rice technologies and solutions that raise rice productivity and farmers’ income at the same time. Through this collaboration, we are excited to provide products and program support that contribute to food security in a significant and environmentally sustainable way.”

Other DSRC members include Bayer, and Kilang Beras SeriMerbok Sdn. PhilRice Philippines, CARDI Cambodia, ICAR India, CNRRI China, MOALI Myanmar, NARC Nepal, Thai Rice Department, PARC Pakistan, MARDI Malaysia, International Fertilizer Association, The University of Sydney, and Syngenta Foundation are also part of the consortium.

Data and results-sharing through IRRI’s Open Access and Data Management Policy and Research Data Management best practices will be made available to all consortium members.

Working to become the major driver of change in the agricultural systems in South and Southeast Asia, the DSRC said it welcomes more partners from any government organizations, including NARES partners, NGOs, civil societies, and farmers’ groups.

“We want to encourage a richer exchange of ideas, knowledge, and technologies to overcome key constraints in this initiative,” Hughes said.