KATHMANDU, June 28
The negligible rainfall even one week after the officially announced arrival of the monsoon has not bothered the farmers of Sonpur VDC in Siraha district.
They are busy planting the paddy in their parched land with no trace of anxiety — thanks to the new climate-smart paddy species that can resist adverse climate and yet be prolific.
Almost 12 years of research into paddy seeds resistant to climatic stress has resulted in the development of climate smart paddy suitable for all geographic region. The new variety disseminated to farmers since 2011 can resist 60 days of drought and 20 days of flood, said a paddy specialist with Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Hari Krishna Uprety.
“The specialty of this variety is that even if the paddy plant is dipped under flood water for 20 days, the new leaves grow as soon the older ones decay,” Uprety informed.
Similarly, they are smart enough throughout the cultivation process as they are unaffected by environmental stress at the time of harvest, he added.
The dry paddy variety that was distributed in the Tarai districts three years ago has proved a star performers for farmers totally dependent upon the monsoon for paddy growing.
While Sirha District Agriculture Office (DAO) could ensure dry paddy varieties for only 20 percent of the farmers, the demand has risen to 60 percent, said Chandra Dev Mandal, crop development officer in the district.
“The farmers can sow the seed on ploughed land that is parched as the plant is quite productive,” Mandal quoted farmers as saying.
With just 28 percent of arable land covered by irrigation in Sirha, farmers of VDCs such as Golbazar, Udaypur, Bhawanipur, Piparahawa, Raniyapur and Sonpur have used this seed variety for the last three years as the area is also drier compared to other VDCs, according to Mandal.
Paddy cultivation covers a total of 67,000-hectares in the district.
“In the Tarai, Basmati is the most preferred indigenous paddy variety and it is especially cultivated for use on special occasions such as wedding feasts. But the dry paddy also tastes good enough,” added Mandal, who also hails from Siraha.
While NARC approves 2.7 metric tons of paddy production at around 4 hectares of land, the production is being recorded at the same ratio here, officer claimed.
According to Rautahat DAO, enthusiastic farmers have started harvesting paddy thrice a year, taking maximum advantage of the dry seeds.
Developing such a variety was not easy for agriculture scientists in Nepal, said Uprety. “The paddy specialists created adverse circumstances for the plant for several years to prove its resistance before prescribing it for farming.
“Most of the seeds developed in recent years are cross-breeds of Nepali indigenous and international varieties”, Uprety added.
Not only because of delayed or heavy rainfall but the variety is also important as irrigation is available for just 21 percent of land in the district, though the Department of Irrigation claims there is 54 percent coverage.
As the seeds are provided by the government under relief quota, the farmers have also begun buying seeds from private companies.
The private companies authorized by the National Seed Bank have also started preparing the variety for farmers, according to the NARC official.
There has been a rise in paddy production in double digit as 5.5 million tons of paddies were produced in Nepal on an average yield of 3.39 tons per hectare on around 1.5 million hectares of land in the last season.
After Banke, Siraha is considered the second driest district in the Tarai. Similarly, the district is also one of the most vulnerable districts when it comes to flood. Though Banke is the driest area among 21 districts of the Tarai, the paddy seeds have been disseminated there for the first time this year.
The dry tolerant variety has been named sukha (dry), flood tolerant as Swarna Sub-1, Samba Masuri and Sukha dhan 6 whereas the cold tolerant paddy for hilly and mountainous region have been named Lekali, Machhapucchre, Chandan Nath and Chhomrong.