News related to Science, Technology, Environment, Agriculture and Medicine in India

Rice and Fodder Intercropping: Improving yield and income sustainability

Image: Donald2019 via Wikimedia Commons

Rice is a major crop in Odisha, covering around 65% of the cultivable land in the state.  However, the crop is grown under rainfed conditions. So rice farmers there face the problem of variations in yield and agricultural income from year to year.

Researchers from the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, Phulbani analysed the problem. They realised that the focus on the monoculture of rice is limiting fodder quantity and quality, reducing animal productivity and fecundity in the region.  

For farmers there, mostly small and marginal landowners, it is not possible to have separate land for fodder cultivation. Intercropping rice with a fodder crop could be a solution. But how would it impact farmer income and rice yield?

Theoretically, intercropping rice and leguminous fodder crops under rainfed conditions could increase soil fertility and, hence, rice productivity, while ensuring fodder availability during hot summer months. 

But would it work in practice? 

To check, the researchers conducted a three-year long experiment. They chose three cropping systems: rice only, rice and cowpea, and rice and ricebean. 

They grew these crops in 30 square metre plots. Rice, as the main crop, was sown with a spacing of 10 centimetres between plants and 15 centimetres between rows. The researchers used the drought tolerant Sahabhagi, Gomti and K-1 varieties. 

After five rows of rice, two rows of the intercrop, cowpea or ricebean, were sown in place of rice rows in the last week of June.  

To understand the nutrient needs of the intercropping system, the researchers divided the plots into three equal parts. They applied farm yard manure at 5 tonnes per hectare in one plot, the recommended dose of chemical fertilisers for rice in another, and farm yard manure with 50% recommended fertilisers in the third. All other standard agronomic practices were followed to raise the crops.

The crop yields improved significantly under farm yard manure at 5 tonnes per hectare with 50% chemical fertilisers. A net positive nitrogen balance was recorded in the intercropping systems whereas it was negative where only rice was grown.

Besides improving soil fertility, intercropping provided fodder during the lean period. 

For better rice yield and income stability in the rainfed areas of Odisha, the researchers advocate intercropping rice and fodder (cowpea or ricebean) and integrated nutrient management. 

Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 20 (12): 3114–3126 (2021);
DOI : 10.1016/S2095-3119(20)63591-2

Suryendra Singh
GADVASU, Ludhiana

STEAMindiaReports: Harvesting research in India
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Categorised in: Agriculture, Odisha, Science

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