ISLAMABAD (APP) - Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) has introduced a new technology called Aerobic Rice Production Technology, aiming at conserve water and enhance paddy yield. Chairman PARC Dr.Zafar Altaf told APP that under the technology the paddy crops do not need standing water necessary for the crop but cultivated like wheat and maize crops. He claimed that by using the technology the farmers in the country can enhance their production from existing 26 Maund to 73 Maund which is more than double of the yield. Through this method we can conserve 30 percent of water in the rice cultivating areas, he remarked. Initially, he said that PARC has selected one district in Sindh (Sangar and Sakrand) and one in Punjab (Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan and Multan). He said that in Pakistan, rice is, traditionally, grown as manual transplanting of 30-days old rice seedlings in the well flooded and puddled fields. Rice nursery is raised separately on fine-prepared and manured soil. He added that the nursery seedlings at the age of 30-35 days are, then, uprooted manually and shifted to the flooded and puddle field. Puddling, he said land preparation in flooding destroys soil structure and after paddy crop harvest, the soil condition is not conducive for fine land preparation and good stand establishment of following Rabi crops. He added that farmers keep standing of water continuously up to the maturity of rice crop. Moreover, manual and random transplanting of rice seedlings does ensure optimum plant population. About 50,000-60,000 plants are found in the manual transplanted crop against the recommended plant population of 80,000 to 100,000 per acre. In this respect, he said that the conventional method of rice cultivation is labour and water-intensive and involves high cost of energy, with the result of low paddy yield. Hence, he observed the present rice cultivation system is not very productive, resource-efficient and sustainable, and poses serious threats to the sustainability of rice-based cropping system. Alternatively, he said aerobic rice (a special rice that is grown like wheat or maize crops) addresses to such issues and saves water, labour, time and improves stand establishment of the following crops. Dr.Zafar Altaf said that the Rice seeds are drilled or broadcast in fine seedbed and then irrigations are applied whenever it is required. Dr.Altaf said that the Aerobic rice does not need growing of nursery, its transportation and transplanting, and puddling operation. He said that this method of rice establishment leads to increased water productivity, availability of nutrients, and helps improve stand establishment of following wheat crop. Aerobic rice, he said is quite feasible for the non-traditional rice belt where more than 0.9 mha area is brought under rice, dominantly with non-basmati rice varieties. However, alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technique (after 35 days of flooding) for transplanted rice is more appropriate for the basmati rice varieties in the traditional rice belt. Both technologies for water saving rice production system have been tested and verified at the KSK farm over the last 3-4 years. He said that now, these technologies are now being upscaled in the rice growing areas of Punjab and Sindh, under the project 'Sustaining the Productivity of Rice-Based Cropping System through New Interventions in Punjab and Sindh Provinces,. These , he said had proven innovative technologies related to water saving, crop establishment and crop diversification, are being disseminated in the project area. Dr.Zafar Altaf said that in the country, three sites in Punjab and 2 sites in Sindh have been identified where the aerobic or AWD technologies are being disseminated. This area falls in the districts of Gujranwala, Okara, Kasur, Jhang, Thatta, and Larkana. The total impact area is estimated to be 200,000 ha. At each site, a team of rice experts is responsible to contact the farmers and accelerate the promotion of water-saving rice production technology in the area. At initial, the team surveyed the area and collected baseline information. Then, they talked to the farmers through individual and group meetings. They also met with the District Agriculture Extension officials who have deep roots among the farming community. At each site, the team identified cooperative farmers and selected 200 fields where the aerobic rice (dry direct rice) and alternate wetting and drying technique for transplanted rice are being disseminated. At each location, water-saving rice fields are compared with farmers conventional rice cultivation method. These demo plots provide an effective media to educate and convince the farmers toward new technologies. Farmers field days and farmers participatory trials would also be conducted to motivate the farmers to adopt new water saving rice production technologies.