Tuesday, October 2, 2018

IRRI and partners enhance farmer livelihood through new rice straw composting technique

Rice straw is a natural byproduct of rice production. Each kilogram of milled rice produces around 0.7-1.4 kilos of rice straw, a potential additional income for smallholder farmers that usually end up being burnt due to convenience and lack of awareness on other rice straw management options.

With support from the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), IRRI and its partners are developing and piloting technologies to facilitate the use of rice straw as an additional opportunity to enhance farmer income and improve sustainability of rice production.

Through the project “Scalable straw management options for improved farmer livelihoods, sustainability, and low environmental footprint in rice-based production systems”, IRRI conducted a demonstration of a locally adapted compost turner in Vietnam last September 19.

“The compost turner is a technology developed by the project to provide farmers with alternative uses for rice straw that are left on the field after harvest, rather than burn it  It can also make land preparation easier for the next cropping season”, says IRRI postharvest scientist and project leader, Dr. Nguyen Van Hung. “The composting process makes use of rice straw waste from mushroom production and low quality rice straw from the field, hence, it does not compete with the  rice straw being used for the  production of ruminant feed,” Dr. Hung adds. 

In addition, there is also an increasing demand for compost from rice straw. This is being sold at US$1.5-3.0 per 100 kg or USD150-300 per ton of industrial compost. Farmers would normally make soil compost manually through different farming implements or by mixing farm and animal wastes using a bulldozer.  “This process is energy intensive and costly as the rental fee for bulldozer is about US$100 for an 8-hour operation,” says Dr. Hung. By having a good mixture of rice straw and animal manure, compost material is made available in forty five (45) days. A few farmers in Vietnam have tried mixing the compost in a pomelo farm and found the results promising.

The original design and prototype of the compost turner machine was developed by the scientists from Hohenheim University in Germany. This was later adapted to fit the smaller fields in Vietnam in collaboration with Nong Lam University, Tien Giang University and IRRI. The locally adapted compost turner has a capacity of 30 tons per hour and is operated by connecting it to a 32HP 4WD tractor.

The field demonstration was attended by researchers and experts from IRRI, CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), University of the Philippines-Los BaƱos (UPLB), Nong Lam University (NLU), Loc Troi, Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI), Vietnam National University of Agriculture, Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS), and Tien Giang University.  It took place at Hung Thanh Commune, Tan Phuoc District, Tien Giang Province and was followed by a writeshop to outline the book on Rice Straw Management which was facilitated by Dr. Boru Douthwaite, former Impact Director of CPWF.

The compost turner machine will also be piloted and disseminated in other countries involved in the implementation of the rice straw management project, particularly the Rice Straw PH project in the Philippines funded by DA-BAR.

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