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MCPO Box 3127, Makati City 1271, Philippines

Project summary and
highlights 1999 Rainfed lowland rice ecosystem
RL2 Managing crop, soil, and water
resources for enhanced productivity
and sustainability of lowland areas
THE PROJECT Low and unstable productivity, high incidence of poverty, and low resource use
efficiency characterize most of the 48 million ha of the rainfed lowland rice
areas, 90% of which are in South and Southeast Asia. Because of the uncertainty
and the variability of rainfall, production environments are risky and farmers
are discouraged to invest in input-intensive technologies by persistent drought,
excess water, and/or weed problems. Modern rice technologies have so far had
little impact on the rainfed agroecosystem because of the farmers’ incapacity to
buffer the adverse effects of drought and submergence. IRRI’s research has
shown that fluctuating water regimes result in unreliable responses to applied
nutrients and shallow root systems that reduce the capacity of the plant to
extract water from deeper layers in subsequent periods of rainfall deficit. For
increasing productivity and alleviation of poverty, management strategies are
needed to enhance crop establishment and weed control, and to synchronize
nutrient supply and demand while buffering exposure of the crop to the ad-
verse effects of submergence and drought. Socioeconomic research on farmers’
response to risks in rice cultivation and the impact of social differentiation on
gender roles in rice farming and intrahousehold distribution of resources are
needed for ex-ante assessment of technology needs of different groups of

RESEARCH PROGRESS • Completed special issue of Field Crops Research, featuring two manuscripts
derived from the nutrient x water (NxW) research: one characterizing site
IN 1999
conditions and the other examining nutrient requirements of rice in rainfed
lowlands. Over 78 locations, yields obtained without applied fertilizer were
not closely related to soil test values. The greatest nutrient response was to
nitrogen, with NPK increasing yields from 2.25 to 4.00 t ha-1 on average. The
effect of adding micronutrients was small and PK was of little benefit
unless N was added. But the magnitude of the N response varied substan-
tially with the water regime. Substantial yield gains were possible in
rainfed systems by application of appropriate nutrients, especially if used
in conjunction with cultivars suitably adapted to the target environments.
• Continued studies into selective effects of water depth in determining
germination and survivorship of selected weed species. Continued long-
term monitoring of the impact of rotational cropping systems on weed
species shifts in direct seeded rice. Quantitative differences were found in
relative abundance of weed species in the WS, which were related to DS
farming practices. Weed community composition after weed management
was characterized in gogorancah rice (Indonesia) in relation to toposequence
and nutrient status. Relative abundance of major weeds was correlated with
position on toposequence and soil K status.
• Analyzed research data from past 4 years from mechanical seeder develop-
ment project in Jakenan, Indonesia. Along with NARS collaborators, de-
signed and initiated a new on-farm participatory study to assess acceptabil-
ity of the developed seeder technology.

• Repeated the experiment on yield constraint analysis in Jakenan for two
• Analyzed the panel data for 6 years on risk management practices of
farmers from eastern India (Faizabad). The results indicate the importance
of income diversification strategies in managing risk at the farm level.
Where farmers have highly diversified income strategies, benefits from
stabilization of rice yield were quite small. However, in rainfed areas where
income diversification is constrained due to environmental conditions or
policy factors, stabilization of rice yield can result in major gains, especially
to poor farmers who have very limited means for coping with risk.
• Completed a study of the economic cost of drought in eastern India and
farmers’ coping mechanisms in the event of severe drought. The average
production loss in eastern India was estimated to be 8% of the total value of
rice and nonrice output. Drought caused a reduction in the output not only
of rice but also of nonrice post-rainy season crops such as pulses and
oilseeds. Using farm level data from Orissa, additional costs such as the loss
in future production potential due to asset depletion, loss of land, deteriora-
tion of human health, and other long-term environmental and social costs
were also documented.
• Completed two papers analyzing the changes in variability of rice area,
yield, and production in eastern India. District-level time series data for 71
districts from eastern India covering the period 1969-94 were analyzed. The
major findings of the study are: a) productivity growth in eastern India as a
whole has led to an increase in production variance, but the relative vari-
ability as measured by the coefficient of variation has declined; b) increased
yield instability (both absolute and relative) in parts of Bihar and Orissa are
the major contributors to increased production instability in eastern India;
c) even though there has been a substantial growth in productivity in
eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal due to expansion of irrigation, the
yield variability still closely tracts the variability of rainfall; and d) the
correlation between yield and area has increased over time in most eastern
• Conducted stochastic dominance analyses of farm and district level yields
of modern and traditional varieties. The results indicate that modern
varieties are often ‘less risky’ than the traditional varieties. In several cases,
modern varieties had not only a higher average yield but their probability
distributions did not intersect with those of the traditional varieties.
• Assessed the economic value of rainfall forecast to rainfed rice farmers in
the Philippines. Farm-level panel data showed that the economic value of
simple forecasts such as rainfall, being above or below average, was sub-
• Initiated a joint ICAR/IRRI project to study the patterns of changes in rice
production systems. This comprehensive project uses a common methodol-
ogy and covers all states of eastern India.

NEXT STEP ACTIVITIES • This project is renumbered RL1.
IN 2000 • Selected activities of old RL1, Characterizing and analyzing rainfed rice envi-
ronments, will be merged with this project.
• Complete manuscripts on NxW from two Consortium sites and workshop
and journal papers on seedling vigor in wet seeded rice.
• Initiate collaborative project on improved weed management in dry seeded
rice in Bangladesh in relation to crop establishment and cropping systems.
• Develop a work plan for collaborative engineering activities on crop estab-
lishment within the RLRRC framework (ongoing). Initiate new collabora-
tive engineering research activities in the rainfed lowlands in Bangladesh.
Publish results of farm level seeder development study in peer-reviewed
journal. Contribute to keynote paper for ISTRO 2000 Conference on Soil
Tillage for Low Input Farming Systems.

• Continue with the experiment on yield constraint analysis in Jakenan for
MCPO Box 3127, Makati City 1271, Philippines two seasons (gogorancah 1999-2000 and walik jerami 2000). These experi-
ments will bring the yield constraint analysis study to completion. Com-
plete analysis of 1998 and 1999 yield constraint experiments and of the 1997
on-farm experiments in northeastern Thailand. Analyze and document the
1998 and 1999 field and greenhouse experiments on “Enhancing crop stand
establishment and weed competitiveness of dry seeded rice by seed prim-
ing/seeding rate and timing”.
• Complete the analysis of data from the survey on changes in the upland
rice ecosystem in Vietnam. A workshop in Vietnam will be organized to
communicate the output of research to policy makers and researchers in
Vietnam. Draft a book on economics of rice establishment in Asia.

DURATION January 1994-December 2003.

AARD, Indonesia; MMSU, PhilRice, Philippines.
ARIs: University of Queensland, Australia; WAU-TPE, The Netherlands.

IRRI CONTACT Dr. Len Wade, crop physiologist/agronomist (