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Sustainable intensification of rice-maize production systems in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh the rise in demand for maize - as human food and from the poultry and fish industries - has led to a trend away from traditional rice-rice and rice-wheat cropping systems and toward rice-maize systems. But actual farm yields of rice and maize fall below their potential. This project will identify, test and promote key interventions in four districts that will lead to sustainable cropping intensification - resulting in double- and/or triple-cropping rice-maize systems. Specific objectives to improve these systems are: (i) to assess and prioritise constraints to, and opportunities for, uptake of improved management options; (ii) to evaluate and identify elite maize germplasm tolerant of excess moisture; (iii) to develop locally adapted management solutions for high-yielding, profitable, resource-efficient, and sustainable rice-maize systems; (iv) to build capacity and disseminate key technologies. Associated socioeconomic studies will undertake a strategic assessment and an empirical analysis of rice-maize systems and also conduct an impact assessment of key rice-maize options for the intensification of rice-based cropping systems. The project will be jointly managed by IRRI and CIMMYT in collaboration with government organisations (BARI, BRRI, BARD) and non-government organisations (BRAC, RDRS). We will establish partnerships using a range of public- and private-sector extension mechanisms to achieve rapid out-scaling of adapted management practices, thereby enabling large numbers of farmers to achieve high and sustained profit by adjusting the production of rice, maize, and other crops in response to markets and cost of inputs. We aim to achieve greater focus of partner institutions on sustainable system-level management, greater integration of germplasm improvement with crop management, greater consistency among researchers and between the public and private sector on technologies, and greater access of farmers to new information and technologies. A Technical Expert Group composed of lead investigators from government organisations and non-government organisations will facilitate consistency in the development and adaptation of technologies that address systems management. A National Working Group-which will additionally include representatives from extension, BADC, private seed companies, and local service providers-will facilitate wide-scale dissemination.

The project builds on existing linkages and experience from IRRI, CIMMYT and ACIAR projects in Bangladesh and South Asia. It will link with two ACIAR projects-LWR/2005/001 (Addressing legume constraints in cereals-based cropping systems) and CIM/2007/027 (Development of conservation farming implements)-by adapting and using the zero- or strip-till drill and other machinery in those projects.

The project will have significant scientific, economic, social, and community impacts. Assuming that improved technologies are taken up over the duration of the project in 4% of current rice-maize areas, benefit will be A$22.8 million. If, after 5 years from project completion, the area of rice-maize remains unchanged but adoption of technologies increases to 10% of the area, the benefit will be A$113 million. Capacity of researchers, extension workers, and farmers will be enhanced with regard to new technologies for system management. The adoption of sustainable intensive rice-maize systems will generate more year-round on-farm employment for the rural workforce.