Though the rice yield has improved, the process, they feel, is far more labour intensive

SRI: Some time in June last year, villagers of Pemathang in Samdrupjongkar, despite some reluctence tried a new method of paddy cultivation.

They have no regrets now as they are reaping the benefits of the change.   Called SRI or “system of rice intensification”, the new method of transplanting paddy seedling has led to increased rice yield.

For instance, Sangay Wangdi, 55, who tried the new method on his 30-decimal land, said he was able to produce 2,250kg of rice.  With the old method, his land yielded about 1,500kg.

Agriculture officials last year trained the villagers to use the new method, where a single paddy seedling is used instead of two or three.  Farmers were happy with the yield, but are still skeptical, as the new method is labour intensive. “It needs a lot of care and could distract us from other farm works,” Sangay Wangdi said.

Paddy transplantation starts in June.

Another farmer, DC Ghallay, who reaped about 3,750kg with this method, said he has already started looking for labourers. “I’ll go back to the old method if there are no workers to hire.”  Some said the method exposed the seedlings to pests, as they are not allowed to use chemicals or pesticides.

Meanwhile the dzongkhag’s agriculture extension officer Wangchuk said the method was to intensify rice production, where farmers could use less rice seedlings in a shorter period of time (eight days), instead of using it after 45 days like in normal cultivation.

The SRI method requires one kilogram of seeds compared to the 10kg they use normally. “If one seed gives two tillers, the SRI plant would develop more than five tillers,” he said.

He said, as per their data, the SRI produced about 2807.9kg of paddy from an acre of land, while the normal method produced 2,025kg.

“Since the result was good this time, we’d encourage more farmers to cultivate on a larger scale, and also encourage more farmers to adopt the SRI. This would only help to maximise utilisation of their small land holding.”

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar