Paddy, which is predominantly cultivated under the conventional inundation method, is the largest water consuming crop in India. Given looming water scarcity, the inundation method of paddy cultivation is no longer sustainable. A newly introduced method of paddy cultivation, popularly known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), is reportedly helping to reduce water consumption and increase land productivity. SRI has now been in practice for some years in India but the various impacts of SRI on water saving, land and water productivity as well as on profitability which are expected to vary in different ecological settings – namely in tank, canal and groundwater irrigated areas – remain largely unexplored. In this study, using data collected from a total sample of 300 farmers from three different settings in Tamil Nadu state, an attempt has been made to fill this gap. The study shows that by adopting the SRI method farmers can save about 40% of irrigation water and increase land productivity by about 46% while reducing the cost of cultivation by 23% over the conventional inundation method. While increasing irrigation water productivity and economic water productivity substantially, SRI also generates an additional profit of Rs 17,169/acre (1 USD = INR 70.12; 1 acre = 4047 m2) compared to that realised by non-SRI farmers.

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