Adapting rice to saltier conditions
The concentration of salt is increased due to evaporation and therefore draining the paddy lands
immediately could prove significant. This can be done by following practices such as cleaning the
drainage channels and removing the sand and other debris from the paddy fields. This is followed
by removing excess salts through flushing, leaching or through subsurface drainage. Clean water
to leach the salts and soil amendments such as Gypsum could be used to make the reclamation
faster. Assistance from the soil scientists could help at this stage.
Medium term strategies
Farmers need to be trained to monitor the field salinity levels and the methods used to reduce
salinity levels. Involve farmers in the variety selection process (Participatory Variety Selection) to
determine the acceptability of and the preferences for the traditional varieties. This will help
develop the capacity of farmers in variety selection according to the local conditions and helps
them in future decision making on their farming. Choose the most hardy, saline tolerant,
productive varieties and promote them through farmer organisations, e.g. Hambantota District
Long term strategies
Farmers must be advised and trained to maintain and clean drainage channels. Practices (under
proper supervision) such as flooding the fields, ploughing and draining can be used to displace
the sodium ions.
Practical Action case study: Saline tolerant traditional rice variety selection at
Hambantota District, Sri Lanka
The improved varieties which are frequently introduced by the research stations are not always
suitable in the long run and have their own limitations in certain levels of salinity. To overcome
the problems associated with the improved varieties, organic farming practices were adopted and
Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) was conducted to determine the acceptability of and the
preferences for the traditional varieties under saline conditions in Hambantota District in Sri
Lanka. The local knowledge was used and farmers were involved in the process during the study.
The approach helped develop farmer’s capacities in variety selection according to the local
The variety selection was conducted by local farmers in their fields during 2005 Yala (dry) season
at Manajjawa of Ambalantota Divisional secretariat of Hambantota District. Initially, sixteen
progressive farmers were involved in the variety selection. Based on farmer’s preferences, the
varieties were selected from ten traditional varieties by scoring from 1 to 10.
Highly preferred variety was scored ‘1’ while the very low preference was scored ‘10’. The criteria
of selection were the plant height, duration, grain quality, grain colour, saline tolerance, and the
grain yield. Farmers were allowed to select the varieties on their own. They selected varieties
based on the field, their perception of the variety, the characters and the historical performance
of those varieties.
Farmers continuously observed the growth and the changes of the plants up to harvesting. They
planted the seed paddy up to 3- 5 kg per variety in the saline affected areas of their paddy fields.
Two farmers out of sixteen cultivated all 10 varieties while the rest cultivated 3-4 variety based
on their preferences.
During the crop growth, other farmers in the surrounding area who cultivated lands affected by
the salinity were invited to the field to observe and discuss with the farmers involved in the trial.
The process helped in sharing the knowledge gained during field trial with the farmers in the
other saline affected areas of Hambantota District.
Participatory Variety Selection covered the way for need based selection of paddy varieties by the
farmers and thereby helps promote quicker adaptation of useful varieties in the farming