A New Rice App Allows Farmers to Better Manage Nutrients for Their Crops
Nutrient management for rice crops plays a key role in obtaining the potential yield. A balanced application of fertilizer helps ensure a good harvest, while maintaining the soil fertility and environmental health.
To encourage farmers to apply balanced nutrients to their rice crop, the International Rice Research Institute has developed an ICT tool called Rice Crop Manager (RCM). Rice Crop Manager is based on site-specific nutrient management (SSNM) principles, which provide fertilizer application guidelines for farmers to optimally match the needs of their rice crop in a specific field and season.
ICT tool for nutrient advisories
RCM may be accessed via a smartphone or a computer with internet connectivity. It allows users to generate a site-specific recommendation on nutrient management, depending on the specific variety they use, their yield from the previous season and the site-specific conditions of their field. All of this information is collected through the built-in questionnaire; the responses are then used to generate site-specific recommendations. RCM derives nutrient management recommendations from Oryza Version 3, an eco-physiological crop growth model that has been calibrated and validated over many years, with comparisons between model simulations and real world measurements.
How it helps farmers
Looking at the big picture, 86.2 percent of the farmers in India are small and marginal, with large diversity in soil types, crop varieties and establishment methods, use of fertilizers and pesticides, irrigation and crop residue management. Most of these also continue to rely on traditional farming practices, passed down over generations.
In such a context, a blanket recommendation for nutrient application based on area is neither appropriate nor effective. RCM provides recommendation to the farmers about doses and timing of application of fertilizers (which have N, P and K in variable quantities), selected by farmers (in kilograms) for a specific plot that it has been generated. The recommendation may be used throughout the season to apply the recommended quantity during critical growth stages of the crop. Registered farmers also get reminders through text messages or phone calls to apply the fertilizers at the right time.
Pluralistic approach for dissemination
So far, RCM has been developed for five countries — in India, it is available for Bihar, Eastern UP and Odisha.In Odisha, IRRI has collaborated with state agricultural department, NGOs, IFFCO-kisan, Common Service Centers (CSC)-an e-service platform established by central government, and dealers to disseminate the advisories among farmers.
A pluralistic approach has been followed to disseminate this ICT tool among farmers, and approximately 4,000 extension staff members have been trained to operate the tool and generate recommendations.
Looking at the larger picture across India, as of November 2019, there were 227 million active internet users in rural areas, compared with about 205 million in cities and 30 million additional new internet users in rural India since March 2019 — including a 31 percent increase among women. Given the increase in mobile and internet penetration, there is great potential for this RCM platform to increase knowledge among farmers. Recent focus, therefore, has been on delivering hands-on training to farmers, especially women and their sons/daughters who use smart phones. To date, around 2, 50,000 recommendations have been generated for Odisha farmers including ~50,000 women farmers. It has also helped the farmers in getting an additional yield of 0.5-1 t/ha per season of the rice crop.
Technology, tailored to meet farmers' needs, can help to improve their livelihood as they make more informed decisions. ICT platforms like RCM can act as catalyst for wider and faster dissemination of innovative and useful technologies among farmers.