Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indonesia and IRRI to revolutionize rice technology for swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan

The Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD) is aiming to modernize the technology for growing rice in the swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan Provinces.

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest rice producer and also one of the world’s biggest rice consumers. With its increasing domestic production and declining dependence on imports, the government is aiming to attain self-sufficiency in rice within the next 3 years.  Sumatra and Kalimantan Provinces could play major roles in helping Indonesia reach this goal.  The government expects South Kalimantan to maintain its projected surplus rice production this year despite the current El NiƱo that has caused harvest failure in a number of rice-growing areas in Indonesia. The resiliency of the province’s rice production is credited to its swampy areas that provide a stable source of water for irrigation.

The Indonesian Swampland Agriculture Research Institute (ISARI) and the Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) conducted a workshop on Developing Best-bet Management Practices (BMP) Specific for Swampy Rice Environment to take full advantage of the potential of the country’s swampy areas.

Indonesia has around 33.4 million hectares of swampy areas in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua, and the Sulawesi islands, collectively. However, only 1.3 million hectares of these have been reclaimed by the government, mostly in Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. Swampy areas also have various rice production constraints including flash flooding, stagnant flooding, acid sulfate soils, pest, diseases, and weeds. Droughts also often occur in the upper portion of the swamps.

“These factors hamper the sustainable reclamation and development of Indonesian swampy lands,” said Ms. Rina Dirgahayuningsih, a researcher from the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) of South Kalimantan Province.

“The good news is ICRR recently released several rice varieties suitable for the swampy areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan,” said ICRR scientist Dr. Indrastuti Rumanti, “These varieties are tolerant of flooding, salinity, acid sulfate soil, tungro and blast diseases.  Now, we need to integrate all the technology components from land preparation to post harvest as farmer-friendly products, in order for the new technology and rice varieties to be easily adopted by smallholder farmers living in marginal areas.”

At the workshop, a total of 17 scientists and researchers from ISARI, ICRR, AIAT-South Kalimantan, AIAT-South Sumatra, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) discussed the current constraints and opportunities for rice technology innovation. And these experts from diverse fields—soil and water management, landscape management, crop management, rice breeding, and crop protection—jointly prepared the best-bet management options for swampy rice areas.

“The multi-disciplinary work on technology development is always challenging, but we can learn many things from each other,” said Dr. Yoichiro Kato, IRRI’s rainfed lowland agronomist.

The participants also visited the farmers’ fields in South Kalimantan’s swampy and tidal areas, and discussed with farmers their practices and problems. This allowed them to compare their prepared management recommendations with farmers’ practices. These recommendations will be reviewed by scientists and extensionists working in the swampy rice areas at a national workshop at ICRR in September.

“The attempt to develop an integrated approach to managing rice is an important point for helping extensionists transfer the applied technology to farmers, and we hope the partnership between our Indonesian institutes and IRRI will get stronger in the future,” said Dr. Herman Subagio, ISARI director. He was also thankful to the support from the Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments, which is funded by the International Funds for Agricultural Development, and Give2Asia project.

The workshop was held in Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan Province on August 18-21.

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