From one to ten tons per hectare – Kashmir Reader

Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population. The area under rice cultivation in India is 43.86 million hectares, which is the largest in the world. The country is only behind China in terms of rice production and consumption. In Jammu and Kashmir it is the staple food of the people and their cultivation extends from the plains with a height of 1570 meters to the high hills of 2180 meters above sea level.
In case the population is increasing at a rapid rate and the earth’s resources are shrinking in an unprecedented way, production per unit area must be increased. It is for this reason that great attention has been given in the past, present and will continue in the future to the improvement of crops and the diffusion of technology related to rice. The development of new varieties with higher yield potential and desirable traits was crucial in bridging the huge gap between what was produced at the time of independence and what could be produced.
The contribution made by SKUAST-Kashmir State Agricultural University through the Mountain Research Center for Preserved Crops (MRCFC), located in Khudwani in Kulgam District, in terms of cultivar development and related range of practices is enormous. The breakthrough was achieved in the late 1960s by introducing China varieties including China 1039, China 1007, China 988 etc., through this station. Before the cultivation of these varieties, the yield of rice was from 1 to 1.5 tons / ha. The first native cold-tolerant variety bred at the station was K332 in 1975 and then K-78 (Barakat) in 1976. These varieties are suitable for higher altitudes.
The revolutionary K-39 variety was the first high-yield variety developed by this station in 1982 for the Valley Plains. This was the only variety with a production capacity above 5 tons/ha. Research efforts led to new breakthroughs in the form of Chenab and Jhelum cultivars in 1996, recommended for Chenab Valley in Jammu and Kashmir divisions respectively, with yield potential of 60 and 65 f/ha.
Varieties of K-39 and K-78 developed at MRCFC are also grown in countries such as Nepal and Bhutan. The production capacity of these varieties was more than three times compared to the traditional ones. The good work has continued in the development of the Shalimar rice series for various environments including varieties such as Shalimar rice 1, Shalimar rice 2, Shalimar rice 3, Shalimar rice 4 and Shalimar rice 5. The newest Shalimar Rice 4 variety has a crop potential of 10 tons/ha. Feedback from farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture of up to 12 tons / ha.
The fine grain basmati variety, previously considered unsuitable for cultivation in temperate valley conditions, was made possible by the development and release of Shalimar Sugand 1, the first aromatic fine grain variety. Likewise, the SR-5 variety developed for higher altitude environments is gaining traction due to its early maturity and good cooking quality. This 1 to 10 t/ha voyage involved the efforts of a dedicated team of MRCFC scientific and support staff for which the station received generous recognition from ICAR and J&K management. The center is on a mission to develop specific, specialized types of rice to meet the demand and preferences of farmers across Kashmir.
Genetic improvement of local high-value rice strains to mitigate various biotic stresses is in progress at the center. Another major milestone of the center is the program to revive local high-value rice through genetic improvement, disease management and improvement of the range of agricultural practices. The result of the revival program is the socio-economic development of Mushk Budji farmers in Tehsil Kokernag, Anantnag County, who have earned Crores (INR) by growing and selling pure Mushk Budji as a branded product.
The farming communities of Sagam (Anantnag) and Tangdar (Kupwara) for Mushk Budji and Red Rice (Zag) status respectively have been awarded Plant Genome Savior Community Awards comprising award certificates and INR 10 Lakh each. Recently, a genetically improved version of blast-resistant Mushk Budji (Shalimar Rice-6) was developed that can be grown without the use of fungicides.
During station visits this year, monitoring teams from across the country and J&K Govt expressed their appreciation for the outstanding contribution the center has made over the past seven decades. These efforts made it possible to achieve the highest rice yield in the country. The average rice yield in India is 2.4 tons/ha while we harvest 6.9 tons/ha on average as in the Kashmir Valley, which is about 190% more than the national average. Research and technology diffusion efforts have made this possible in this part of the country.
Technologies always need policy support and one of them is of course the Agricultural Extension System which includes a network of Agricultural Science Centers (Krishi Vigyan Kendras) and Agricultural Development Department in each district. As evidenced by the recent data, both the KVKs and the Ministry of Agriculture have done commendable work regarding technology transfer in almost all major field crops including rice. Frontline extension programs along with availability of quality seeds and technical support through the extension system have played a major role in this regard. The research has done a great job of combining yield and other desirable traits in certain cultivars and approximating biological limits, but a great deal of research work is needed to develop climate-resistant technologies including crop varieties. The role of this plant is therefore dynamic to meet current and future farming needs.
Technologies that are relevant nowadays may not be so in the future due to natural resource degradation, land shrinkage, increased population pressures, and shifting disease and insect pest dynamics under a changing climate scenario. There is still room to narrow the current yield gaps between current production and potential yield through awareness and persuasion through live farmers demonstrations. This needs more strong coordination among the various stakeholders, especially in reaching the unreached part of the farming community that operates mostly in remote and upland ecologies.
It is important to understand that a variety of crops possesses a host of other technology components to realize their full potential and ignoring the relevant set of practices can sometimes result in a high yield penalty. The researchers are doing commendable work as well as the extension mechanism, but land use policies need to be implemented as a matter of priority to avoid future crises. The conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural activities is happening at an alarming rate. Productivity can only rise to a certain extent, and even maintaining current production will be challenging due to the reasons explained above, so other measures are equally important.
Mubarak Chief Scientist of Agricultural Engineering (MRCFC) – Scoast – Kashmir. Dr. N.R. Sophie is Associate Director for Research (MRCFC) – Scoast – Kashmir; Dr. Sarfraz A. Wani is the Director of Research at SKUAST-Kashmir.
E-mail: [email protected]

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