Bayer has introduced a low-emissions, water-saving direct-seeded rice (DSR) system that will see widespread implementation at smallholder farms in India and the Philippines.
Direct-seeded rice (DSR) systems allow farmers to reduce water use by up to 40%, lower emissions by up to 45%, and reduce manual labor needs by up to 50%. The agricultural approach presents an alternative to transplanted puddled rice cultivation, a water-intensive system that often faces significant yield losses.
So far, Bayer’s DirectAcres program has seen success with 99% of Indian farmers, achieving plant establishment and a 75% higher return on investment when compared to the conventional transplant growing method, the company said.
DSR is expected to become the main growing method in India by 2030, with about 75% of total rice fields using the method compared to the 11% currently doing so. Eventually, Bayer plans to introduce the DSR system on 1 million hectares in India, supporting over two million smallholder rice farmers.
“We are building entire systems based on regenerative agriculture practices that create value for farmers and nature alike and that help address the issue of global food security,” said Frank Terhorst, head of strategy and sustainability at Bayer’s crop science division. “Direct-seeded rice is an excellent example of a system that holds huge potential to create a positive impact going forward.”
Flooding methods are traditionally used to prevent weeds, so Bayer is developing crop protection solutions, including a rice herbicide, to ensure long-term success for the direct-seeded method.
Bayer Provides Digital Tools and Additional Support for Rice Farmers
To help farmers transition to the new DSR system, Bayer also supplies a digital platform, FarmRise. The tool includes access to advisory services, necessary machinery, and other data-driven insights that empower farmers to make the best agronomic decisions. FarmRise also connects farmers to Bayer’s Carbon Program, which allows them to earn more for reducing emissions.
Bayer is working alongside the International Rice Research Institute and Direct Seeded Rice Consortium to transform rice production and improve the quality of life for smallholder rice farmers. To this end, Bayer has committed to improving water use by 25% per kilogram of rice produced by its smallholder farmer customers enrolled in the DirectAcres program.
The new DSR system may transform the growing environmental toll caused by rice cultivation, which is currently responsible for about 1.5% of global emissions and consumes up to 43% of the world’s irrigation water. Rapid urbanization has also led to a continuous worker shortage for rice farming, and DSR may help lower associated costs for farmers with the new, less labor-intensive system.
“The need to come together to shape more economically viable and sustainable rice cultivation systems has never been so pressing,” explained Mike Graham, head of breeding at Bayer’s crop science division. “Our direct-seeded rice system will help smallholder rice farmers adapt to, and mitigate, climate change while running profitable businesses, improving their own and community’s social well-being.”