Dr. Ram C. Chaudhary stressed that the rice yields obtained by average farmers are visibly lower than the yields obtained by the best farmers, national demonstrations or the experiment stations, leave aside the theoretically possible yields. While addressing one of the most difficult questions of the Y2K about bringing in additional 200 million tonnes of rice annually, yield gap bridging shows the ray of hope for Y2K. While the efforts to increase the yield ceiling are imperative, yield gap bridging commands priority on the agenda. Yield gap reduction is the local solution to the global problem, in addition to its manifold incentives of cost reduction, poverty alleviation, and social justice and equity. But it requires an integrated and holistic approach including technological package and policy intervention. The lessons learnt from several countries of the region and outside the region may offer a guide for the approach and model to be used in the future.
Yield gap reduction could be achieved by overcoming some of the production constraints. Handling the biological constraints does involve new kind of thinking on evolving stable performing varieties, and managing the crop in a way to minimize adversities of weeds, soils, fertilisers, water, and post harvest losses. Handling socio-economic constraints such as risks and return, credit and input, tradition and attitude appears equally paying. Increasing the adoption of knowledge intensive technologies superimposes influence by reducing biotic, abiotic and socio-economic factors.
It is recognised that the factors to be addressed and their prioritisation would vary greatly from one country to the other. There must be much commonality in these factors among the countries of the region, which may get the primary focus by FAOs intervention. Countries would have their additional focus on their bottleneck factors. Therefore, time is appropriate for crystallizing a Regional Project on Yield Gap Reduction in Rice. Based on the available information, the factors may be identified, prioritised and welded in the project plan. The project components may involve components like survey, analysis and prescription to identify key intervention points. The other components could be institutional arrangements, communication (models for reaching the farmers with package), and critical research. The overall project strategy may be looked through policy support and the environment of linkages with government, non-government and private organizations, and the key players, the farmers. Perspective of such a regional plan on bridging the rice yield gap was discussed.