German multinational group Bayer announced the introduction of its direct-seeded rice (DSR) system at the recent 6th International Rice Congress in Manila.
Bayer says moving from transplanted puddled rice cultivation to direct-seeded rice can help farmers reduce water use by up to 40%, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 45% and reduce farmers’ dependence on scarce and costly manual labor by up to 50%.
The introduction of the DSR system is fully in line with Bayer’s recently announced approach to regenerative agriculture which will enable farmers to produce more while restoring more.
Driven by these advantages, DSR has the potential to be transformational with 75% of total rice fields in India expected to switch to this cultivation method by 2040, in comparison to roughly 11% today. By 2030, Bayer plans to bring the DSR system to one million hectares in India, supporting over two million early adopter smallholder rice farmers through its DirectAcres program.
Regenerative Agriculture Practices
Already underway, DirectAcres has seen considerable success with 99% of Indian farmers achieving successful plant establishment and 75% a higher return on investment compared to rice grown using the conventional transplanted method. Bayer plans therefore to introduce DirectAcres in other rice-growing countries in Asia Pacific, starting with the Philippines in 2024.
“We are building entire systems based on regenerative agriculture practices that create value for farmers and nature alike and that help address the issue of global food security,” said Frank Terhorst, Head of Strategy & Sustainability at Bayer’s Crop Science division.
“Direct-seeded rice is an excellent example of a system that holds huge potential to create a positive impact going forward.”
Traditionally, rice farmers first grow seedlings in nurseries before transplanting them in ploughed, levelled, and flooded paddy fields. Over the subsequent months, the water level must remain constant to ensure that the plants establish and grow. Shortly before the harvest, the farmer drains the field. Some 80% of the world’s rice crop is today produced using this method.