Friday, October 26, 2018

Experts from 11 countries gather to shape the future of rice ratoon cropping system

Ratoon rice is an ancient practice in China and Japan.
It can give 60% yield of the first crop
Rice ratoon is considered to be one of the most ancient rice production practices in Asia. Pioneered at about 1,700 years ago (215 -31 AD), it originated in the Guangdong Province of China. Ratoon rice is produced from the second crop growing from the stubble after harvesting the main crop. It can produce  about 60% grain yield of the first harvest, and provides several benefits such as reduced labor inputs, increased grain yield and profit, and optimal use of resources. Due to its efficiency, rice ratoon was widely adopted in several provinces in China.

In Hubei Province, ratoon rice production peaked at 300,000 ha in the early 1990s. However, the volume fell to 6,600 ha by the year 2012. The reason for the drop is linked to high labor needs, particularly when the main crop was manually harvested. The high rates of migration of rural workers to cities is also one of the causes. The challenge, therefore, is to integrate mechanization of rice production with the practice of rice ratooning.

Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, Hubei Province has taken the lead in the global research for mechanized rice ratooning technology. “There is an increasing need to explore more room for improvement in rice ratooning technology and discovering how to utilize mechanization for us to address the labor shortage. This should be among other ground breaking research initiatives that are being conducted to further optimize the benefit of rice ratooning in different areas,” said Dr. Shaobing Peng, Professor of Crop Physiology from Huazhong Agricultural University.  “In our university, we have been conducting research on ratoon rice that is mechanically harvested in both main and ratoon crops since 2010 and there are more things to be done. We need to investigate deeper on the suitable cultivars with high ratooning ability, optimum planting date for a given cultivar, improved fertilizer use and water management, integrated pest control, and proper stubble height. These will help us determine how to optimize overall performance of ratoon rice,” he added.

The International Symposium on Ratoon Rice convenes the
global experts on ratoon rice to learn from one another.

To further explore the opportunities in ratoon rice development in China and other major rice producing countries, an International Symposium on Rice Ratooning was held on 18-20 October 2018 in Qichun County, Hubei Province, where large field experiments on rice ratooning were conducted by a team from Huazhong Agricultural University. The symposium was led by Dr. Shaobing Peng and about 150 delegates from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, United States of America, and Vietnam, participated with the objective of bringing the technology to their countries. During the symposium, participants not only learned about rice ratooning, but also shared their experiences in developing and disseminating research in rice ratooning technology.

One of the highlights of the program is a key finding presented by Prof. Peng. Through the course of his research, he found out that the quality of the ratoon rice, including milling quality and chalkiness, was better than that obtained with the first crop based on the laboratory analysis. He also discovered that if pests and diseases are managed well in the first crop, fewer problems are present with the ratoon crop. This eliminates the need to apply pesticides for the ratoon crop. As a way forward, further research is currently being held at the Huazhong Agricultural University about the nutritional benefits of rice from the ratoon crop versus ordinary rice. 

IRRI scientists share knowledge on research gap of ratooning in
biodiversity and India's experience in rice ratoon practice.

IRRI scientists Grant Singleton, Alex Stuart and Paneer Paneerselvam highlighted research gaps on the effects of ratooning on pest ecology and management, and on animal biodiversity. They also presented the progress of ratoon rice development in India and how it helped increase the country’s rice productivity. Grant Singleton made the point that, “China is now placing high emphasis on the environmental sustainability of agricultural systems. Therefore it is highly important to implement research on animal biodiversity as an indicator of the sustainability and environmental health of rice cropping systems such as the rice-ratoon system.” Oliver Frith, IRRI’s Head of Business Development, shared IRRI’s strategy for strengthening country partnerships. “China and IRRI has a long history of partnership, and we look forward to more opportunities where IRRI can provide a significant contribution to the advancement of the Chinese rice sector, as well as to share lessons with other countries through South-South collaboration”, he said. 

The participants visited a rice-crayfish system and the experimental station where the field experiments on ratoon rice was conducted in Qichun County. Nurwulan Agustiani, Rice Ratoon Researcher at the Indonesia Rice Research Center since 2012, thinks the event is very relevant to her country. “Indonesia is not much attentive in the ratoon rice system. I learned how advanced the other countries are already in the ratoon rice technology, and I am able to bring my learnings in my country to this symposium, especially in mechanization because we are still finding ways to optimize the mechanization of ratoon rice in my country,” she shared. 

“Through this symposium, we hope to provide a platform for the scientists from the academe and international research organizations, to exchange knowledge and improve the research on ratoon rice. At the same time, we also hope to build new partnerships and strengthen our current collaboration with the participating organizations”, said Mr. Shaobo Yang, Vice President of Huazhong Agricultural University.

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