To discuss opportunities and challenges of using the rice fallows in Assam, the Assam Agriculture University (AAU) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) organized a workshop on "System intensification and harnessing rice fallows in Assam" under the Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART) on 6 May 2023 at the Assam Administrative Staff College, Guwahati, India.
Rice is the most significant crop in Assam, which accounts for 2.54 million hectares of the overall planted area of 4.16 million ha. Ninety six (96%) of the state's entire production of cereal grains comes from it. However, according to researchers, there are many opportunities to significantly increase the overall land area and rice output. Using time-series satellite data, AAU and IRRI mapped Assam's rice-fallow areas from 2018–19 through 2020–21 and discovered that the rabi season's rice-fallow area ranged between 56–58% of the kharif rice area. Furthermore, according to statistics from the last three years, Assam's average rice-fallow area is around 10.34 lakh hectares, and these areas offer a great deal of potential for rice-based farming systems.
During the workshop, Dr. Ashish Kumar Bhutani, Indian Administrative Service, Chief Secretary and Agriculture Production Commissioner, Government of Assam, emphasized the need for immediate action to convert as many rice fallows as possible to crop production in order to increase Assam's cropping intensity. "Utilization of rice fallow for growing a second crop is a complex issue as most of the farmers are reluctant to grow the second crop, despite the existence of suitable conditions and good number of government schemes favouring the same. The situation needs to be delved deeper to know micro reasons and accordingly village or block level action plans need to be prepared,” said Dr. Bhutani.
In order to increase farmer productivity and profitability, ISARC Director Dr. Sudhanshu Singh emphasized that Assam's cropping intensity should be increased to more than 170 percent over the course of the next 6–7 years. He also suggested that an effective action plan be created to address the issue of rice fallow in Assam.
APART also launched an atlas on potential areas for growing different crops titled ‘Suitability atlas for rice-based cropping system of Assam, 2022’ which will provide information on the areas suitable for rabi crops in Assam during the workshop.
The workshop saw participation from AAU Director of Extension Education Dr. Prasanna Pathak; AAU Director of Research Dr. Mrinal Saikia (In-charge); Assam Seed Corporation Ltd. (ASCL) Director Mr. Gunajit Kashyap; Assam Seed and Organic Certification Agency (ASOCA) Director Mr. Mousam Hajarika; Mr. Mayur Bhuyan Addl. Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Government of Assam; Dr. Virender Kumar Deputy head and Senior Scientists from Philippines IRRI, Dr. MP Pandey Former VC and Former Director National Rice Research Institute (NRRI); scientists from IRRI, ISARC, AAU, World Veg, officials from ARIAS Society and the Department of Agriculture Government of Assam; and representatives from Farmer Producer Companies of different districts. Dr. HS Gupta, Chairman, Assam Agriculture Commission also joined the workshop virtually.
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