Rice, the staple food of over 20 million Sri Lankans, is the livelihood of more than 1.8 million farmers. It is grown under both irrigated and rainfed conditions in the Dry, Intermediate, and Wet zones of Sri Lanka during two cropping seasons: maha (October to March) and yala (April to August). Maha is long and receives an ample amount of rain in all climatic zones. Yala is short and considered as the dry season for the Dry and Intermediate zones. As such, out of a total of 0.768 million hectare of rice lands, around 90% are cultivated in the maha season and 55% in the yala season at a cropping intensity of around 140%. In 2012, 0.702 million hectares and 0.365 million hectares were cultivated, amounting to a total annual cultivation of 1.067 million hectares.
Polonnaruwa District is a high-potential major rice-growing area situated in the Dry Zone, where intensive rice cultivation is practiced on 50,000 hectares. Rice is grown twice a year in both the yala and maha seasons. Irrigation for rice lands in Polonnaruwa is provided by four major irrigation schemes. Productivity of these rice lands has been declining significantly over the years. At present, mean rice yield in the area is around 5.5 tons/hectare.
Kilinochchi District is also a high-potential major rice-growing area and rice is cultivated under both irrigated and rainfed conditions. There are 25,382 hectares of paddy lands, of which 12,850 hectares are rainfed. Some 9,118 hectares (40% of the irrigated area in the district) are fed by the Iranamudu irrigation scheme. The entire command area of the Iranamudu irrigation scheme is cultivated in maha. The extent of cultivated land in yala depends on water availability in the reservoir and is generally about 2,500 hectares.
In Polonnaruwa District, Yaya 20 paddy tract in Kalingaela Village was selected as a field site to implement detailed project activities. It has a 40-hectare block of rice land belonging to 46 farmers. In Kilinochchi District, Paranthan and Waddakachchi villages were selected as field sites.
Key scientists and players
Key scientists: RSK Keerthisena (agronomy); Bhagirath Chauhan (crop establishment, weeds)
• S. Sivaneson (research officer-in-charge)
• D. Abeysundara – agronomy
• U. Rathnayake – water management