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News @ Jains - A novel attempt using drip irrigation for paddy

Chennai , July 9 : An initial experiment in the use of drip irrigation in paddy cultivation by Jain Irrigation has demonstrated significant savings in water and power..

The experiment conducted by Jain Irrigation, the countrys largest manufacturer of drip irrigation systems, at its farm in Udumalpet near Coimbatore, showed that paddy yield was comparable to that of conventionally flood irrigated field. But under drip irrigation, the volume of water used was just about a third of that used in flood-irrigated field, apart from the reduction in power cost. The initial results are encouraging and the next step for the company is to focus on raising productivity, say officials.

The company was showcasing its study to a group of journalists it had taken recently to its farm.

Dr P. Soman, Senior Vice-President Projects, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd, said the demonstration of the reduced water use to get comparable output of paddy was a significant outcome of the study. Paddy is a water intensive crop and over the next two decades, scientists project a nearly five time growth in annual paddy demand to about 533 million tonnes. This would have to be achieved in the face of stiff competition for water.

Jain Irrigation conducted the study on a 27-cent (about a fourth of an acre) plot in which it cultivated ADT-45 variety of paddy under conventional conditions and under drip irrigation. The study showed that against a potential yield of 4 tonnes an acre estimated for the particular variety, it harvested an equivalent of 3.8 tonnes an acre under drip irrigated conditions and 3.4 tonnes under conventional flood irrigated conditions.

But the volume of water used with drip irrigation was 32.4 lakh litres an acre against 104 lakh litres under conventional irrigation, he said. The electricity used for drip irrigation was about half that of the conventional pumping. Subsequent studies are under way to look at increasing yields under drip irrigation systems.

While the results are encouraging, it will be a few years before the company is able to bring this technology to farmers, he said. The cost of cultivation would be a major disincentive. For instance, farmers would have to spend about Rs 57,000 an acre to set up the drip irrigation system which would be effectively used to cultivate paddy for about 10 seasons. There are also other costs relating to the changes in cultivation practices, such as mulching, that need to be adopted to enable drip irrigation.

This has to be considered against the backdrop of farmers getting free power for agriculture in States such as Tamil Nadu, he said. Also, drip irrigation for paddy is not covered under subsidy.

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