Rice is the third-largest crop production, after sugarcane and maize. The main producers of rice are the nations of China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. Rice is a staple crop. More than half the people in the world, about 3.5 billion people, rely on its production. Not only is rice a key source of food, but it is also a good source of income for many smallholder farmers.
After the decades of remarkable production, the rice yield has slowed down. The rice yield potential is 10 t/ha, however, farmers manage to produce only 7-8 t/ha. In the developing countries, where farmers have less access to the inputs and technology, the average yield is 4-5 t/ha. In order to respond the future food demands, rice production and yields will have to be increased. At the same time, rice farming needs to be managed in a sustainable way to reduce its environmental footprint. It’s important to mention that rice farming produces 10% of global methane emissions and need 34-43% of the world’s irrigation water. In order to decrease water use, soil pollution, and methane emissions, as well as improve their yields, farmers need to embrace sustainable farm practices.
Sustainable farm practices and the proper farm management represent the answer to all challenges of rice production. Especially favorable for small farmers who don’t have many resources and inputs, these farm practices be divided into three different stages:
Pre-plant practices mainly refer to the variety selection. Rice has over 40,000 varieties and hybrids. It’s important for a farmer to use healthy seed of locally adapted varieties to get a crop with a good potential yield. A good pre-plant management practice is also to plan and discern the crop season, inputs and labor requirements. That way a farmer can manage his resources, plan a potential credit, and organize his workers.
Growth management starts with proper planting or sowing practices. Rice crops can be seeded directly into the field, or sown in seedbeds and then transplanted in the field. Choosing the best planting practice depends on location and rice ecosystem, soil type and the availability of input and physical labor.
Rice is a crop hugely sensitive to water shortages. By managing to construct field channels, a farmer can control water flow to and from his field. To prevent water loss, a farmer can also repair cracks or rat holes and construct bunds.
Good harvest practices are important to maximize grain yield and minimize yield losses and quality spoilage. By practicing the harvest at the right time, a farmer can conserve his yields. It’s also important for a farmer to avoid delays in threshing after the harvesting. After threshing, it is recommended practice to clean and dry the grains.
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