Pathways and determinants of sustainable energy use for rice farms in India
Rice cultivation in the Northwestern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) of India is often associated with high energy use, calling into question its sustainability. We applied a bootstrapped meta-frontier with a truncated regression to a database of 3,832 rice farms from the input-intensive rice production tracts of the Northwestern IGP as part of an assessment of energy use efficiency aimed at identifying entrypoints for more sustainable and efficient practices. District-specific technical efficiency score ranged between 0.68 and 0.99, with a mean of 0.86–0.90, suggesting an average potential for improvement in energy use efficiency of 10–14% within each district. Observed mean meta-frontier technical efficiency scores ranged between 0.60 and 0.81. On average, energy use efficient farms had 42% or higher energy use efficiency in the districts of Ambala, Fatehgarh Sahib, and Karnal. In contrast, in other districts efficient farms had 5-19% higher energy use efficiency than the inefficient farms. Higher rates of tillage, irrigation, and fertilizer application were identified among inefficient farms, with patterns of energy use efficiency varying to some extent between study districts. Both efficient and inefficient farms in Kapurthala and Ludhiana exhibited similar patterns of energy for tillage and land preparation, whereas the energy output from both efficient and inefficient farms were similar in Kurukshetra. These data suggest that in order to improve the efficiency of energy use in rice farms in the Northwestern IGP, district-level policy interventions and incentives might be required. The methodological approach and evidence provided in this study may be of use to identify pathways toward sustainable energy use in other intensively managed rice production landscapes in other countries. Similar analyses that employ meta-frontier and truncated regression approaches can be carried out for other performance indicators, for example profitability and carbon footprints, to explore and identify management and policy interventions to assist farmers to more appropriately utilize scarce and costly resources.