Why in News?
- As per a study conducted by the Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, today’s rice does not have the same density of essential nutrients as those cultivated 50 years ago.
- Rice, domesticated by humans over 10,000 years ago has now become the staple food for more than three billion people.
- The researchers found depleting trends in grain density of zinc and iron in rice and wheat cultivated in India.
- There could be several possible reasons for such depletion: one is a ‘dilution effect’ that is caused by decreased nutrient concentration in response to higher grain yield.
- This means the rate of yield increase is not compensated by the rate of nutrient take-up by the plants.
- Also, the soils supporting plants could be low in plant-available nutrients
- Zinc and iron deficiency affects billions of people globally and the countries with this deficiency have diets composed mainly of rice, wheat, corn, and barley
- Iron deficiency is a common cause of too few healthy red blood cells in the body (anaemia).
- Zinc deficiency is characterized by growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune function.
- Indian government has taken initiatives such as providing supplementation pills to school children, Mid Day Meal scheme, through Anganwadi workers etc.
- Another option is biofortification, where food crops are bred that are rich in micronutrients.
- Rice is a staple food in India for the vast majority of the population.
- It’s a kharif crop that demands high temperatures (over 25°C) and high humidity, as well as an annual rainfall of more than 100 cm.( But it is also cultivated as a Rabi crop in states like West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.)
- It is grown using irrigation in locations when rainfall is scarce.
- The climatic conditions in the southern states and West Bengal allow for the cultivation of two or three rice crops in a single agricultural year.
- Rice cultivation covers about one-fourth of India’s total agricultural land. West Bengal is the largest rice producing state in India.
- Leading producer states: West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
- High Yielding States: Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Kerala.
- Punjab and Haryana are not traditionally rice growing states. Following the Green Revolution, rice cultivation was introduced in the irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana in the 1970s.
- Irrigation is used to water almost all of the rice-growing area in Punjab and Haryana.
- India contributes about 24% of total rice production in the world (ranked second) and China is the largest producer of rice. India is the leading exporter of Basmati variety of rice.
Issues with rice cultivation
- Rice is one of the most water intensive crops in India
- Rice cultivation has been linked to climate change. It is reported to emit greenhouse gases like methane due to the anaerobic conditions presented by flooded fields. Such emissions account for as much as 5% of total global GHG emissions.
- Rice itself is a target of climate change.
- Prone to salinity.
- Inefficient use of fertilizers.
Institutional mechanisms related to rice production
- Research on rice started with the establishment of the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) in 1920.
- It got further impetus with the establishment of the Central Rice Research Institute in 1946.
- In 1965, the ICAR launched the AICRIP – All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project- for improving rice production, productivity and profitability
- Some of the first resulting varieties of the AICRIP are Padma and Jaya and there are over 1,200 varieties of rice cultivated in India.
- Pokkali rice – can be an alternative for traditional rice as it is a saline tolerant rice and climate change resistant variety that is cultivated using extensive aquaculture in an organic way in the water-logged coastal regions of Kerala
- Alternative for rice can be Millets, which is more nutritious, less water intensive and more climate change resistant. United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets