What is DSR?

Direct seeded rice: a more sustainable approach to rice production

The demand for rice is on the rise. Projections by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) anticipate rice production needs to increase by 25% in the next 25 years in order to meet global demand. To achieve this challenge in a sustainable way, we have to produce this extra rice more efficiently with less labor, water, energy, and agro-chemicals to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production.

In traditional rice cultivation methods, 40% of the world’s irrigation water is applied for rice production. Increasing water scarcity due to climate change and competition from urbanization is making this traditional method of rice production unsustainable in the long term. Combined with other factors like shortage of labor and decreasing arable land, new ideas and innovations in rice cultivation are critically needed to meet rising demand and ensure food security.

One of the potential solutions to address these challenges is direct seeded rice (DSR). Direct seeding is a crop establishment system wherein rice seeds are sown directly into the field, as opposed to the traditional method of growing seedlings in a nursery, then transplanting into flooded fields.

Direct seeded rice is seen to be one of the most efficient, sustainable, and economically-viable rice production systems used today. Compared to the conventional puddled transplanted rice (PTR) method prevalent in Asia, DSR delivers faster planting and maturing, conserves scarce resources like water and labor, is more conducive to mechanization, and reduces emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Mechanized DSR also creates avenues for employment through new service provisions and is less labor intensive and free from drudgery, hence more attractive to youth and women farmers.

Although direct seeding is widely practiced in the United States and South America, productivity challenges have limited its wide-scale adoption in Asia, where 90% of the global rice is produced and consumed. This underscores the need for an integrated and scientific approach to make direct seeded rice socioeconomically and environmentally sustainable.

Advantages of direct seeding

  • No significant reduction of yield under optimal conditions

  • Savings on irrigation water by 12-35% under efficient water management practices

  • Reduces labor and drudgery by eliminating seedling uprooting and transplanting

  • Reduces cultivation time, energy, and cost

  • No plant stress from transplanting

  • Faster maturation of crops

  • Lower GHG emissions

  • Mechanized DSR provides employment opportunities for youth through service provision business model

  • Increases total income by reducing cost of cultivation

Current constraints

  • Higher seed rates

  • Seeds exposed to birds and pests

  • Weed management

  • Higher risk of lodging

  • Risk of poor or non-uniform crop establishment

Learn more about direct seeded rice in the IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank