Towards strategic crop management in rainfed rice areas
Land conversion, competition for water among agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, and the high maintenance cost of irrigation facilities underscore the need to enhance productivity in rainfed rice areas. WeRise was developed through the IRRI-Japan Collaborative Research Project (IJCRP) with funding from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences. It aims to improve productivity in rainfed rice areas amidst climate change. Through science-based weather and crop advisories, WeRise can contribute to the realization of Sustainable development goal 2: Zero Hunger by transforming rainfed rice areas into a more sustainable production system by enabling efficient water and nutrient use to maximize the entire rice-growing season. It can help rainfed rice farmers improve their climate change adaptation capacity through more strategic crop production decisions and consequently improve their livelihoods through a more stable and higher yield, and income. By empowering extension workers who are its target primary users, WeRise can also enhance extension and advisory services.
Rainfed rice areas are characterized by low and unstable yields, small farm size, and high poverty incidence largely due to weather uncertainties resulting to difficulties in determining the onset of rain, amount and distribution of rainfall, and flooding and drought occurrences during the upcoming cropping season (Tuong et al 2000). Overcoming physical constraints by increasing the number of rice croppings would entail increased water requirements, pest build-up, and changes in fertilizer dosage and application pattern, requiring more efficient soil and water management practices.
How does it work?
WeRise integrates a localized seasonal climate prediction and real-time weather data with a crop growth model. It is web-based and enables data-driven decision support through science-based advisories including the optimum sowing timing, suitable variety for planting, and fertilizer application schedule based on the weather characteristics of the upcoming cropping season (i.e., onset, amount, and distribution of rainfall throughout the upcoming cropping season, possible drought and flooding occurrences), crop growth development, soil characteristics, and farm management practices.
- Technology development: In collaboration with local partners in research and agricultural extension, field validations were conducted in Laos, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Obtained results from on-farm field validation in Indonesia showed that the predicted grain yield was close to the actual grain yield that was obtained through optimum sowing timing given by the predictions. Optimum sowing timing from the seasonal climate prediction-based crop growth model improved Indonesia's rainfed rice yield (Hayashi, et al., 2018). Additional experiments in Indonesia and the Philippines are continuing.
- Capacity development: During 2017-2019, a total of 61 agricultural extension workers (AEWs), researchers, and field agents were trained on communicating WeRise advisories to farmers, and on WeRise operation, maintenance, and further development in Indonesia and the Philippines.
- Policy influence: Stakeholder meetings/consultations were held to discuss how to integrate WeRise in the national system.
While positive validation results hope to promote and lead to the adoption of WeRise by target users within the projects’ implementation period, a potential next phase is possible to expand geographical coverage of WeRise development, validation, and dissemination; and continued capacity building of stakeholders for WeRise uptake and dissemination to ensure project sustainability.