Adoption of Modern Rice Cultivation Practices and Technologies in Bihar
Source: Flickr, Mariana & Enrique

Bihar is one of the poorest and largest states in India. Rice is the main staple consumed and grown in the state where two thirds of the population is directly employed in the agricultural sector. In this context, a recent study investigates the relationship between the adoption of improved technologies and cultivation practices for rice production in Bihar. Specifically, the study examines the extent to which certified improved rice seeds and other crop improvement practices are adopted by farmers with different size landholdings in selected villages and identifies factors that influence the adoption of certified rice seeds. 

This study is based on data collected at household, individual and plot level between 2010-2012 under the ICAR-ICRISAT collaborative project on ‘Tracking Change in Rural Poverty in Household and Village Economies in South Asia.’ The data used in this study covers 160 households across 4 villages and further draws on state level rice production data collected by the state of Bihar. Households were categorized according to farm size into sub-marginal (less than 0.4 hectares), marginal (0.4–1 hectares) and small farm households (greater than 1 hectare) which helped to understand the relationship between farm size and the adoption of modern rice cultivation practices. Using the household and corresponding farm size data the study calculates the extent to which households adopted various improved technologies and practices. These include, the seed replacement rate (the use of certified seeds), the amount of fertilizer used per hectare and access to irrigation. Following this, the study conducted a panel logit model which estimates the determinants of rice seed replacement in the study area.  

The seed replacement ratio refers to how much of the total cropped area was sown with certified seeds in comparison to seeds that were saved on the farm. The study focuses in particular on the seed replacement ratio highlighting that seeds are the most important determinant of agricultural production driving the performance and effectiveness of other inputs.  

The study highlights that rice yield in Bihar state has grown at about 1 percent per annum since 1990–1991. However, overall yields have increased relatively slowly, compared to other states in India, at roughly 10 kilograms per hectare annually, reaching 1600 kilograms per hectare in 2011. Overall, Bihar state-level data shows that the seed replacement rate has increased significantly in recent years from 7 percent in 2001 to 38 percent in 2012. However, the study finds that the seed replacement rate in the study area varied significantly according to farm size (30.9 percent, 47 percent, and 57.1 percent for the average sub-marginal, marginal and small farmer respectively) between 2010 and 2012. Similarly, the study finds significant differences in fertilizer use between farms of different sizes in the study area where the use of fertilizer averaged 90 kilograms per hectare for the sub-marginal farmer, 95 kilograms per hectare for the marginal farmer and 145 kilograms per hectare for the small farmer. The study finds the same relationship regarding access to irrigation and irrigation equipment where sub-marginal and marginal farmers have lower rates of irrigation equipment ownership. 

The results from the panel logit model indicate that the size of farm holdings, ownership of irrigation resources, education and caste are statistically significant determinants for the adoption of certified modern seeds. The study finds that the larger the size of farm holdings, the higher the probability that farmers use certified seeds. The study suggests that this might be due to the assumption that larger farms have better access to financial resources, seed markets and resources. Similarly, the study finds that the ownership of irrigation resources positively influenced the adoption of certified modern seeds; in this instance the study suggests that the establishment of shallow tube wells and surface water pumps in Bihar is likely to further increase the use of certified modern seeds. The study also finds that caste as well as the education of a farmer is a significant indicator of whether the use of certified seeds is adopted. In this case, the study calls for the development of strong local institutions that can support resource poor and socially-marginalized farmers. 

In conclusion, the study suggests that these results support the argument that the inverse relationship between productivity and farm size (covered recently on the FSP) has ceased to operate in the study area in recent years and that this is likely due to the fact that easier access to modern rice cultivation practices and technologies favours larger farmers over smaller farmers. Overall, the study calls for policies that have strong monitoring and evaluation frameworks, which focus on sub-marginal and marginal farmers in particular, to accelerate the speed of adoption of modern technologies to enhance rice productivity. 

The full study can be accessed here

By: Bas Paris

Photo credit:Flickr, Mariana & Enrique