BUTALEJA – For many years, rice farmers in Butaleja and Pallisa districts practised traditional broadcasting while planting, a method found to limit yields and lead to poor grains.
Most of them who are engaged in rice growing grew just enough food to survive, sometimes less.
In using this method, farmers committed suicide financially as their yields remained poor and low but the emergence of the modern technique of planting rice in rows by International Fertilizers Development Centre [IFDC], seems to have saved farmers in these districts from low yields.
A case in point is Lwoba irrigation scheme where farmers planted rice without much concern about the distance between the plantlets.
Mr Mahamood Were, 58, a farmer under Manafwa basin Ricegrowers Cooperative Union says in Lwoba irrigation scheme, rice was grown in the old traditional way, by hands.
“The seeds were planted, germinated and the seedlings grew carefully until they reached a certain level of maturity, they were then transplanted by hands into flooded fields and were broadcasted with no space between the plants and this gave low yields,” said Mr Were.
Broadcasting is sowing of seeds across an area by scattering without paying attention to spaces between them.
Mr Were said they would plant 30 Kg of rice in an acre of rice but only harvested 15 bags of rice at the end of the season and that this was not economically sustainable.
“This traditional way of planting rice by broadcasting kept us in poverty, we would plant what to eat and very little to sell for sustenance and to meet other domestic requirements like paying fees, buying food, buying clothes and meeting the medical bills,” said Mr Were.
Mr Were noted that traditional broadcast planting of rice tends to make rice growers poorer and that farmers usually use more seed which in turn becomes very expensive.
He revealed that besides, the higher seeding rates typically result in more money spent on seed inputs with little gain in yield.
“Traditional broadcast planting of rice normally results in poor seed to soil contact, exposure of seeds to predation from birds and small mammals and crowding of the plants due to poor planting which gives poor quality plants, high population of weeds and competition,” said Mr Were.
Mr Were says that the intervention of the International Fertilizers Development Centre [IFDC] in sensitizing farmers on how best to grow rice and make money out of it is saving farmers.
When PML Daily visited Butaleja, reports from various farmers indicated that there is finally a silver-lining on the formerly dark and impotent rice gardens as they are now successfully charting an easy and simple escape route from poverty from IFDC intervention.
The main target of the IFDC sensitization has been to develop strategies to assist rice growers to improve their economic status, household food security and water management for irrigation.
Ms Brenda Akuruchet, the IFDC communication specialist said IFDC’s main aim is to help farmers know how to improve their yields by using the new technique of planting in rows.
“We sought to increase the availability and use of new agricultural technologies to maximize and sustain rice productivity in Lwoba and Doko rice schemes,” said Ms Akuruchet.
Ms Akuruchet noted that although the local traditional farmers cleared land, grew crops for a few seasons and then moved on and the practice left the abandoned soil fallow, allowing it to regain its fertility but that population growth forced them to continually plant crops on the same land.
“But the soils remained mined without nutrients,” added Ms Akuruchet.
Mr Baker Nasoma the chairman of Manafwa Basin Rice Growers Cooperative society in Lwoba Irrigation scheme said IFDC has taught them integrated soil fertility management strategies which centre on combined use of fertilizers and locally available soil amendments such as lime and phosphate rock and organic matter that includes crop residues, compost and green manure to replenish lost soil nutrients.
He explained that this has helped improve both soil quality and the efficiency of fertilizers and other agro-inputs.
“And in addition IFDC has also taught us ISFM to promote improved germplasm, agro-forestry and the use of crop rotation, intercropping with legumes [ a crop which also improves soil fertility]” said Mr Nasoma.
He said that farmers who have adopted ISFM technologies from IFDC have more than doubled their agricultural productivity and increased their farm-level incomes by 20 to 50 percent.
Mr Nasoma said that using a guided line approach by IFDC in rice growing increases not only yields but partnership among farmers.
“The local farmers now assist each other transplanting rice into their paddies in turns,” added Mr Nasoma.
“Farmers have learnt that if rice plants are spread out in rows and not planted very close together, they have more room to grow, they will get more sunshine and air and can produce more tillers unlike when planted randomly,” said Mr Nasoma, a former banker turn into farmer.
Ms Ketty Ichulet, a farmer in Olok village, Olok sub-county in Pallisa district, one of the districts supported by IFDC says they have learnt to plant seeds in rows or straight lines by drilling or dibbling which has enhanced yield potential and improved convenience for activities such as weeding, nutrient application or harvesting.
“The 20cm by 20cm row planting is preferred to maximize light absorption. Before IFDC, I used to plant 15Kg of rice in an acre of land but after training by IFDC I now plant one kg of rice on an acre and the yield is miraculous; 15 bags of rice each weighing 100Kg every season,” said,” said Ms Ichulet.
She said it is clear everywhere that seeds have been reduced from 60 kg to only 20kg per hectare while yielding increases by at least 15 per cent.
“And other benefits include the reduction of the time it takes rice to mature, with crops maturing within less than 10 days earlier than the traditional rice planting,” added Ms Ichulet.
She said though IFDC guidelines, rice farmers who have planted rice in rows can hardly be overwhelmed by pests and diseases since it’s very strong and less congested.
The Butaleja district agricultural officer Ms Amina Bungo said IFDF has made an impact on the general agribusiness environment by introducing new varieties like K98, K85, Super, Boyo and Benerengo.
She said although people have been growing rice in Butaleja, they have only been consuming it domestically because they could not market it.
“But now IFDC has given farmers market opportunities and they are now determined to grow rice for international markets,” said Ms Bungo.
The deputy chief of party [IFDC] Mr David Hirst said IFDC wanted to evaluate socio-economic challenges facing rice-growing farmers in order to develop strategies to assist households to improve their economic status, household food security and water management for irrigation.
“We are aware that good yields result from good management of the plant, the soil and water conditions so that the plant’s potential for growth and production gets fully expressed,” Mr Hirst said.
Mr Were who owns more than 10 acres of rice gardens in Lwoba rice Scheme says although it may be surprising, it is possible to get many more grains of rice from a field by planting fewer plants and by putting them farther apart so that each plant is healthier and more vigorous in its growth.
“That “less” can be “more” seems strange, but it is true with the modern methods of farming introduced by IFDC,” Mr Were notes. Ends
The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) is a public international organization addressing critical issues such as international food security, the alleviation of global hunger and poverty, environmental protection and the promotion of economic development and self-sufficiency through the use of agricultural technologies including fertilizers and other inputs.