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< prev - next > Environment and adaptation to climate change adapting rice to saltier conditions (Printable PDF)
This brief outlines the approach of using indigenous verities of rice to develop
salt tolerant crops for areas where soil salinity is an increasing problem.
Rice is the principle cereal crop and forms a part of
staple diet in many developing countries. Several rice
growing countries face a major problem of high soil
salinity. There is a growing interest in using indigenous
rice varieties and adopting organic farming practices to
improve the land conditions and cope with high soil
salinity. This brief focuses on this practice in Asia.
Why use indigenous crops and adopt organic
Saline stress is one of the major factors limiting crop
production in the world, especially in the developing
countries. Although salinity is widespread in coastal
areas, it occurs in rain-fed and irrigated environments as
Figure 1: Traditional rice variety in
Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Practical
well. Long term use of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides could severely affect the soil properties,
exacerbating the existing problem of salinity stress. Organic farming, in the long-term, is a
promising option for rural communities. This approach is less resource consuming, productive,
economically viable, and environment friendly.
Traditional rice varieties can offer a home grown solution to the increasing soil salinity and
farmers can benefit by increasing their harvest in salt affected lands. Increased food production
in the fields with zero or low productivity will not only improve the economy and well-being of the
farmers, but will also create the employment opportunities for the local people. The improved
varieties are not always suitable in the long run as the environment is also subject to change. Few
case studies point out that certain traditional rice varieties have greater tolerance level for salinity
stress and if incorporated with organic farming, have great relevance in land improvement.
The study carried out in India (Bhonsle and Krishnan, 2010) observed that the traditionally
cultivated salt tolerant varieties showed good grain quality characteristics, sold for a higher price
and had the potential for consumer’s preferences.
Land preparation process
Saline paddy lands can be rehabilitated by using short term, medium term and long term
strategies proposed by the Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka.
Short term strategies
The reclamation of saline soil is a key step and involves soluble salt content to a level at which
the salts will not seriously interfere with the plant growth. The only practical way of removing salt
from soil is by leaching, a process that involves washing out the salt with water.
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