Agronomic fortification of rice grains with secondary and micronutrients under differing crop management and soil moisture regimes in the north Indian Plains
Although the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has been reported to produce higher paddy (Oryza sativa L.) yields with better-quality grains, little research has addressed the latter claim. This study investigated the interactive effects of rice cultivation methods with different irrigation schedules and plant density on the uptake and concentration of sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn) and copper (Cu) in the grain and straw of two rice cultivars during two rainy seasons in the northern plains of India. As the two seasons differed in amounts of rainfall, there were impacts of soil moisture differences on nutrient uptake. Plots with SRI cultivation methods enhanced the grain uptake and concentrations of S, Zn, Fe, Mn and Cu by 36, 32, 28, 32 and 63%, respectively, compared to conventional transplanting (CT). Under SRI management, the highest concentrations of S, Zn and Cu in the grain and straw occurred with irrigation intervals scheduled at 3 days after disappearance of ponded water (DADPW; 3D), whereas Fe and Mn concentrations in the grain and straw were higher with irrigation at 1 DADPW (1D) compared with plots under 3D or 5 DADPW (5D). The higher nutrient uptakes were also manifested in higher grain yield in 1D and 3D plots (by 9 and 6%, respectively) compared with 5D. Wider spacing (25 × 25 cm) compared with closer spacing (20 × 20 cm) significantly increased yield and the uptake and concentrations of all the said nutrients in the grains. When comparing the performance of two cultivars, the total uptakes of Zn, Fe, Mn and Cu in both grain and straw were significantly more in Hybrid 6444 than the improved variety Pant Dhan 4. Overall, SRI crop management compared to CT practices led to more biological fortification of rice grains with respect to S and the four micronutrients studied, giving a concomitant yield advantage of about 17% on average in this region.