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IRAQ

Overview

After learning of SRI at an international forum on hybrid rice in China in 2004, Dr. Khidir A. Hameed, a rice scientist from the Al-Mishkab Rice Research Station (MRRS) near Najaf, was the first to try out SRI methods in Iraq. In 2005, on ¼ hectare with the "parachute method," he tried early transplanting (12-day-old seedlings) and wide spacing (25x25 cm), using just 30 kg of seeds per hectare. With the popular variety Amber 33, SRI yields were 18% higher than with the usual dry method and resulted in 81% seed saving plus unmeasured water saving. Trials carried out in three provinces (Basrah, Messan and Thi-Qar) were impressive enough that the Minister of Agriculture, when visiting them, promised to support extension of the new methods.


  Photos of SRI Projects in Iraq - See also album

Labor: Because labor scarcity has made transplanting rice difficult in Iraq, a "parachute planting" method was devised, which involves throwing young seedlings onto a shallow-puddled field, where they establish themselves without being pushed into the soil. During subsequent years, a paddy mechanization project carried out cooperatively by MRRS with the State Board of Agriculture Extension and Cooperation (SBAEC) and the State Bureau of Agricultural Research (SBAR) has shown greater promise for dealing with labor constraints (see video and photos of the mechanized transplanter).

Water: Water saving is of much interest in the Iraqi context. Trials in 2006 showed yield increases of 20-26% with a reduction in water requirements. A field study on water use efficiency (IWUE) conducted in 2009 at MRRS evaluated irrigation with traditional methods compared to SRI recommendations. SRI methods resulted in more vigorous growth of roots, a 42% increase in grain yield, and WUE of 0.291 kg/m2 compared with 0.108 kg/m2 for conventional rice crop and water management, almost a three-fold difference. SRI reduced the need for irrigation water by about 38.5%.

Organic matter: According to a report, SRI has led MRRS researchers to pay more attention to use of organic matter, instead of relying entirely on chemical fertilizer, with promising results. In 2009 trials, the SRI treatment using 5 tons/ha of OM combined with half the usual amount of chemical fertilizer gave the highest average grain yield (7,360 ton/ha), 22% more than the lowest treatment (6,036 ton/ha), which was achieved with farmers’ current transplanting methods. In order to increase the availability of organic matter, more than 100 farmers in three provinces (Najaf, Diwaniya, and Al-Muthanna) have cultivated a clover crop after their rice crop to restore the fertility of their rice-growing lands, although the areas used are still small since the government has not received or provided sufficient clover seeds.

SRI Promotion: The MRSS has been very active in promoting SRI since 2005. Its staff have produced three videos, it has been featured on Iraqi TV and in newspapers, and it has promoted SRI at the 6th AEA Agriculture Fair. Khidir Hameed, together with MRRS director Flayeh Abed Jaber and colleagues, have given numerous presentations, training sessions and workshops to agricultural staff and farmers in 8 provinces (Baghdad, Messan, Babel, Thi Qar, Basrah, Najaf, Diwaniya and Al-Muthanna), although most of the SRI demonstrations and trials have been in the first three provinces noted. (See details of 2009 Najaf/Diwaniya training, a series of 2008 Muthanna lectures/demonstrations reaching 2,000 farmers, a 2008 research station field day with 400 attendees, and a 2007 Diwaniya training course.)

During 2007, a national SRI committee was established with several staff of Al-Mishkab Rice Research Station (MRRS) near Najaf, including its Director and a representative from the General Company for Horticulture and Forestry, which has experience with the production and management of organic matter. The committee intended to promote extension of SRI methods in Iraq and to formulate a national SRI project.

The expansion of SRI work in Iraq during 2008 was assisted by a Japanese donor who learned about the initiatives of Dr. Khidhir and colleagues through this SRI website. Summer season experiments with Jasmine rice in Al-Muthanna Province in southern Iraq confirmed that SRI practices can, despite greatly reduced plant populations, improve both plant performance and yields under Iraqi conditions (7,040 kg/ha compared with 4,668 kg/ha for non-SRI methods) while reducing water use, saving seed (as much as 80%), and lowering costs of production. SRI - System of Rice Intensification in Iraq. A video produced by MRRS in 2009 documents SRI success and constraints in Iraq based on 2008 experiences promoting SRI in Al-Muthanna Province. For implementation of SRI over large farm areas, the authors (Hameed et al.) recommend use of a transplanting machine, which is being tested at the Al-Mishkhab Rice Research Station, Najaf.

Dr. Abdul Hussein El-Hakim had done an assessment of the economic costs and returns for the 16 farmers in four districts of Al-Muthanna province who used both SRI and conventional methods on their farms in 2008, as well as for 16 nearby farmers who grew rice with their usual methods. The farmer evaluations of SRI were uniformly positive, citing 25-30% less irrigation water required, 50% reduction in fertilizer and 75-80% reduction in seed requirements; this was accompanied by a 100% reduction in agrochemical crop protection. Average yields were 75% higher with SRI methods. These benefits are starting to attract support from the Ministry of Agriculture and donor agencies, according to Dr. Khidhir, who was given an award in recognition of his work on SRI and water management by the Prime Minister during the country's Second Agricultural Week held at the Baghdad International Fairgrounds, April 14-21, 2010.

With support from the Iraq Ministry of Agriculture, the State Bureau of Agricultural Research (SBAR) and Al-Mishkhab Rice Research Station (MRRS) continued their SRI activities in 2010, primarily working in Najaf and Diwaniya Provinces with cooperation from the State Board of Agriculture Extension and Cooperation (SBAEC) and the Directorates of Agriculture (DAs) in those provinces. During 2011, an article documenting positive SRI results for irrigation was published in the Journal of Paddy and Water Environment. Later that year, a workshop at the Ministry of Agriculture revealed growing interest in extending SRI to to other provinces, with most supporting the use of transplanting machines in their areas due to labor considerations. The Minister of Agriculture also agreed to establish an SRI ministerial committee for planning and managing the SRI system in Iraq. Khidhir Hameed from the Agricultural Research Office Al-Mishkhab Rice Research station summed up the past nine years of SRI progress in Iraq in his presentation on Iraq's Strategy for Innovative Rice Irrigation and Water Management in Iraq at the Drought Risk Management, Desertification and Dust Storms Workshop held March 2-6, 2014, in Amman, Jordan. In 2016, Laith Naeem Hassouni from the College of Agriculture in Baghdad University completed his master's thesis on the effects of irrigation scheduling and the application of organic matter on rice yield under SRI. The thesis showed great benefits from water reduction contributing to a yield increase of 29.5%

Progress and Activities

2017 Update
2015-2016
2013-2014
2005-2011 -see Iraq activity archives

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Reports and General Articles

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