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Making Rice–Cultivation Water-Efficient and Sustainable for Haryana

  • Growing rice, a crop that demands huge amounts of water, results in significant groundwater depletion across the rice-producing areas of Haryana in India.
  • To reverse this, IRRI is building capacities and encouraging farmers to adopt water use efficiency and crop diversification.

Groundwater depletion: the bane of wheat-rice cropping system

Back in the 1960s, the northern states of Punjab and Haryana were the epicenter of the green revolution in India. Today, the states maintain their pivotal role in ensuring food security in the country by continuing to be the highest contributor to India’s agricultural production. Punjab and Haryana produce above the national average volume for food staples, contributing an average of about 4.8 tonnes and 6.5 tonnes of rice and wheat per hectare, respectively. However, this productivity came with a cost as the predominantly used rice-wheat cropping system in producing rice and wheat eventually reduced soil fertility, biodiversity loss, and groundwater depletion below acceptable limits. Between 2000 and 2021, the groundwater level in rice-producing districts of Haryana has reportedly dipped 13 meters.

The way forward

Aimed at helping the communities boost water productivity for various agricultural systems across landscapes, IRRI organized a series of workshops from 7 – 14 June 2024 in Haryana. The sessions, led by experts on water management, focused on interventions by agricultural extension centers, locally known as Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), and covered four districts: Yamuna Nagar, Karnal, Panipat, and Sonipat. Fifty farmers and 20 KVK scientists participated in these workshops.

The workshops featured case studies on crop diversification based on recorded irrigation practices by farmers during the last Kharif season. During these sessions, three interventions were emphasized to reduce water application in agriculture: adopting short-duration rice varieties, dividing farms into smaller plots, and diversifying rice to other crops, including kharif maize and mung beans.

Highlights of the sessions include water management expert and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Proloy Deb from IRRI presenting the case for shifting to direct seeded rice (DSR) from the conventional puddled transplanted rice (PTR). Dr. Deb also recommended splitting the farm into smaller subplots of 0.5 acres to aid in eliminating repeated irrigation, which is attributed to frequent power cut issues in the region.

Senior specialist Dr. Swatantra Dubey advised transitioning from the traditional rice-wheat system to a short-duration maize-wheat-mung bean system to reduce groundwater withdrawals. This intervention reportedly increased farm income by up to 57%.

Evidence from Dr. Deb’s study suggests that shifting to DSR and adopting these short-duration varieties can lead to 40% savings in water use, thereby boosting irrigation water productivity.

Following the training workshops at each KVK, Mr. Jasbir Singh, agriculture research and development specialist at IRRI, facilitated interactive sessions with the participants. These sessions aimed to understand the farmers’ perspectives on irrigation water application under DSR and PTR establishments and their barriers to diversifying from the traditional rice-wheat system. A comparison of the pre-and post-training results by the participants suggested that the farmers had gained significant knowledge about both interventions.

​​These capacity-building sessions align with IRRI’s global contribution to the work package  (WP2) by the CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains, which focuses on boosting water productivity and integrated storage management at the basin scale.