Rice clinics to improve food security in rural India
Specialised rice plant clinics increase crop production for smallholder farmers in Northern India.
A network of plant clinics was launched last month in the Uttar Pradesh region of India to help rural farming communities diagnose and treat rice plant pests and diseases. By minimising the effects of pests such as brown plant hopper and weeds which have been known to destroy up to 60% rice crops in Indian farms, 25 rice plant doctors provided expert advice on treatments that mitigate crop losses and increase production for smallholder farmers.
The project, which provided the first specialised service of its kind, was led by the International science-based organisation CABI in collaboration with India’s science based agri-business pioneer, PI industries Ltd. The clinics visited 11 locations throughout the province to provide a farm advisory service to rice growers. Mimicking the “drop-in centres” of National Health Systems, the clinics use plant doctors to identify the biotic or abiotic stresses from live crop samples that limit production and advise on immediate treatments for farmers. The initiative was welcomed by farmers who believed the plant clinic’s timely intervention helped increase rice production and income.
Mr Salil Singhal, Chairman and Managing Director of PI Industries Ltd, extended his full support to the scheme and believes the initiative highlights the positive steps agri-business companies can make in improving the livelihoods of rural communities.
With 70% of the population living in rural India and with most families relying on rice as a staple food source, increased crop production has a direct impact on food security. Dr Kavya Dashora, CABI’s Project manager for the rice plant clinics explains the importance of such a scheme.
“The project provides these isolated and often uninformed farmers with the scientific and practical solutions that are needed to overcome the natural threats in our modern society. For every 1% reduction in crop losses, we can potentially help thousands more people feed themselves.”
Dr Dashora strongly believes such initiatives that focus on the development of crop specific clinic for other food security crops is key in helping eradicate hunger and malnutrition globally.
“With the success of the current initiative and with PI Industries keen interest to replicate this service in other rice growing parts of India, more farmers could improve crop yields and their prosperity by saving crops from pests, weeds and diseases”
With the recent lift of trade barriers on rice exports in India improving rice’s status as a valuable cash crop and positioning India as a top exporter, the project also provides farmers with an opportunity to generate income by selling a healthier harvest to a growing international market.
Dr Ravi Khetarpal, CABI’s Regional Director for South Asia explains the potential such initiatives could have in the region.
“Looking at the success of rice clinics funded by PI industries and with Asia producing more than 90% the worlds rice, there is a great scope of upscaling such an activity across the region. This is bound to improve livelihood of farmers engaged in producing this most important food security crop of the world.”