Mechanized Direct Seeding Transforms Rice Production, Boosting Yield, Profit, and Reducing  Carbon Footprint in Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta

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    Sehlule Muzata
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In 2021, the Excellence in Agronomy Initiative (EiA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) embarked on a groundbreaking project to help transform Vietnamese agriculture. During its incubation phase, EiA introduced mechanized direct-seeding (mDSR) to Vietnamese farmers. This innovative approach slashed seed and fertilizer usage by 50 percent and 20 percent, respectively, increased yields by 5 percent, and boosted profits by US$200 per hectare. It not only made economic sense but also lightened the environmental cost, reducing the carbon footprint by 10 percent. Recognizing its potential, in 2023, the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development embraced mDSR and released national guidelines for its implementation in the Mekong River Delta.

Meet Hieu, a happy farmer from Vietnam. This happy farmer is holding up his harvest after a successful rice crop. Hieu implemented the mDSR (mechanized direct seeded rice) technique and the results speak for themselves. Photo Credit: IRRI

In the heart of the Mekong River Delta, where lush green fields stretch as far as the eye can see, a transformative technology has taken root — mechanized direct-seeding rice (mDSR). This method doesn’t just plant seeds; it is also sowing the seeds of change, prosperity, and sustainability.

Since 2021, when IRRI launched the Excellence in Agronomy Initiative, it has been on a mission to revolutionize rice farming in Vietnam to combat food insecurity and climate change. IRRI collaborated with the Department of Crop Production and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Their focus was on disseminating a “One Must Do, Five Reductions” program to promote the best management practices in lowland rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta. Developed in this Initiative, mDSR has proven to be a game-changer, especially in Can Tho City and Tien Giang Province. Farmers like Vo Van Than, embracing mDSR on his 4-hectare farm, use 50 percent less seed than in traditional broadcasting, harvest 7 percent more grains, and have increased their profits by 17 percent. A win for these farmers is a win for their communities.

In collaboration with HK Company in Cai Lay District, Tien Giang Province, EiA’s mDSR trials produced a 35 percent higher paddy yield with just half the seed used in conventional practices along with reduced nitrogen fertilizer rates, less frequent pesticide use, and more efficient water use. This success story resonates with the Vietnamese government’s broader vision to cultivate one million hectares of high-quality, low-emission rice in the Mekong by 2030. Can Tho, Tien Giang, and Kien Giang provinces are gearing up to implement mDSR-based rice production across 350 hectares in the upcoming summer–autumn 2024 season.

“Planting the seeds of prosperity is about more than rice; it’s about empowering farmers. Mechanized direct-seeding is transforming fields in the Mekong Delta, ensuring not just a harvest today, but a bounty for generations to come,” says Nguyen Van Hung, IRRI senior scientist.

To empower the country’s farmers with practical knowledge, the Department of Crop Production worked with IRRI to issue national “Technical Guidelines for Mechanized Direct Seeding” on 31 October 2023. This government recommendation for a rice production technology provided a roadmap for farmers in the region, ensuring they could harness the benefits of mDSR, which would not only increase their efficiency but also reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you give me rice, I’ll eat today; if you teach me how to grow rice, I’ll eat every day,” Mahatma Gandhi once said. This philosophy underscores the mission behind mDSR — not just to provide immediate solutions, but to equip farmers with sustainable, long-term agricultural practices.

In December 2023, the Vietnamese government formally integrated these guidelines into its broader strategy, “Sustainable Development of One Million Hectares of Specialized High Quality and Low Carbon Rice Production Areas under the Green Growth Agenda in the Mekong Delta Region”. This government strategy aligns perfectly with Vietnam’s ambitious project launched in December 2023 to create one million hectares of sustainable, low-carbon rice fields in the Mekong Delta by 2030.

For more information, read the EiA 2023 report.

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