Easy Grow on Location: Hampi, Karnataka, India
Easy Grow begin a new series of articles from across India and South East Asia, as we research and investigate different methods of agriculture, the techniques involved and the produce grown.
This week we have been in Hampi meeting rice paddy workers on the field.
Indian Rice Farming
India is one of the world’s largest producer of rice, accounting for 20% of world rice production. Rice is India’s main staple food source and is therefore an important part of the national economy. The rice is grown in rain fed areas that receive heavy annual rainfall. It demands temperatures of around 25 degrees centigrade and above and rainfall of more than 100cm. Rice production declined by nearly 10 million tonnes in 2009 -2010 due to a severe drought that affected almost half the country.
Indian Rice Farming Methods
Rice can be cultivated by variety of different methods based on the type of region. In India however, traditional methods are still being used for harvesting rice. The fields are initially ploughed and then fertiliser, typically in the form of cow dung, is applied and the field is smoothed. The seeds are transplanted by hand and then through proper irrigation, the seeds are cultivated.
Rice fields require to be level and should ideally have low mud walls to help retain water. In the level areas, excess rainwater is allowed to cover the rice fields and flow slowly. Rice grown in the heavily watered lowland areas is known as lowland or wet rice. In the more hilly rice fields, slopes are cut into terraces for the cultivation of rice, the rice grown in the hilly areas is known as dry or upland rice. Interestingly, per hectare yield of upland rice is comparatively less than that of the wet rice.
Aquaponics in Rice Farming
Research shows that a further rise in temperature can increase incidence of pest and disease outbreaks and actually decrease yields. So with today’s increased concerns over climate change what changes can be made to traditional methods in order to preserve the future of rice farming?
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish) and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) which has been around for approximately 30 years and is becoming increasingly more well known.
When using this system the waste produced by the farmed fish creates the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water. This technique is good for both the fish and the rice. Safely hidden from birds, the fish thrive in the dense rice plants, while they in turn provide a source of fertiliser with their droppings, eat insect pests and help to circulate oxygen around the rice field. Farmers tell us that keeping fish in rice fields can increase rice yields by up to 10% – plus they have the additional supplies of fish.
University studies have observed that the combination of rice and fish farming is mutually beneficial. Fish fed on organisms which grow in fields and on many noxious insects for their larva, thus saving the crop from harmful organisms and promoting better rice yield.
Out on the Field
We visited a rice farm on the outskirts of Hampi, Karnataka and the vastness of the rice fields covering the land makes it is clear that the rice paddy fields form one of the countries biggest forms of employment. We met with a group of rice labourers who told us they earn 150 rupees a day (approximately £1.50 a day). This may not seem like a lot but it is in fact higher than most average employment wage. If climate change begins to impact and yields start to decrease then this will be detrimental, not only to employment but the countries economy as a whole. The introduction of an aquaponics system where not only are yields of rice increasing but fish are being farmed, means a stronger future in the production of food and brighter future for the economy. Whilst there is no blanket solution for all India’s agricultural issues, using aquaponics is a huge step in the right direction!