The Crops Research Institute (CRI) under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has introduced a water- saving irrigation technology called alternate wetting and drying to rice farmers at Weta in the Ketu North district of the Volta Region.
The gesture organized in collaboration with Lancaster University in the United Kingdom (UK) was a funded project led by Prof Ian Dodd of the Lancaster University, UK , and Dr Patricia Amankwaa-Yeboah, the African Lead Partner at CSIR-Crops Research Institute.
The project being implemented with a private company to facilitate commercialization of the product of the research, is aimed at promoting irrigation practices for rice production in hard-to-reach areas, where water is a challenge, especially during harmattan season.
Speaking at a field day organized for rice farmers at Weta, Dr. Patricia Amankwaa- Yeboah, a Senior Research Scientist with the CSIR-CRI explained that previous research had shown that the AWD technology could improve the level of micronutrients in rice grains if adopted by farmers.
She said a team of researchers were therefore investigating this assertion by evaluating different rice genotypes under AWD in field trials on several farmers’ fields across the country.
She continued that, this claims if found true could improve rice utilization in Ghana that would help to eliminate ‘hidden hunger’ in the country since rice was fast replacing several staples and indigenous foods in Africa.
Dr Amankwaa- Yeboah said the research done was to access and build on the advances and successes made by a previous GCRF funded project called Recirculate to boost rice micronutrient levels in Ghana using improved rice genotypes, hence the introduction of the technology.
She said the research on the AWD by CSIR-CRI and its partners in the UK over the past six years had brought out the numerous benefits associated with the new technology.
She said the group had plans to also investigate the feasibility of introducing “technology package” comprising improved rice genotypes with alternate wetting and drying irrigation management as well as nutrient management initiatives to commercial and subsistence farmers across the country.
Dr Amankwaa- Yeboah was hopeful the initiative would improve the resilience of rice production by minimizing water and nutrient use, enhance food and nutrition security to promote locally grown nutrient- enriched rice.
Dr Stephen Yeboah, a Senior Research Scientist and Co-Principal Investigator of the project also mentioned that inadequate water and nutrient supplies limit crop yields and there was a need for farmers to manage their resources efficiently to ensure long-term agricultural sustainability and local food security.
He stated that research on the AWD by CSIR-CRI and its partners in the UK over the past years had brought out the numerous benefits associated with the technology, mentioning some as the environmental and cost savings in water and nutrients, improved yields that could result in increased income for the farmer as well as savings in labour and fuel used in pumping water for irrigation.
The Director of the CSIR- CRI Prof. M. B. Mochiah, urged farmers to adopt the alternate wetting and drying irrigation technology to help them increase the resilience of their rice production systems to the changing climate where water is envisaged to become an increasingly limiting factor for sustainable rice production.
Mr. Atsu Vincent, who spoke on behalf of the farmer group, expressed their appreciation to the researchers and encouraged them to engage farmers at the scheme in their research.
He said farmers understand research better when they were engaged directly in the process and more likely to embrace the technology when they see instant gains associated with it and was of the view that AWD technology would go a long way to help farmers save water and get good yields.
Some of the project team members who participated in the programme were Dr. Ophelia Asirifi Amoako from the CSIR- Savanna Agricultural Research Institute, (CSIR-SARI) and Mr. Eugene Zori from New Age Agric Solutions.