Direct-Seeded Rice

Bringing Relief to Farmers and the Planet through Regenerative Rice Practices

rice harvest
Jyothi on her farm
Jyothi on her farm near Tripuraram, a village in the Nalgonda district of Telangana state in southern India.

India, the most populous country in the world is also the country with the largest acreage dedicated to rice production. While 80 percent is consumed on the domestic market, it is also the largest exporter of this staple food. With more than half the world’s population depending on rice as their main source of daily nutrition, it is critical to global food security. Using regenerative agricultural practices, Bayer is supporting farmers in India transition to direct-seeded rice, to provide for a growing population in a more climate-friendly and resource-efficient way. One such farmer is Jyothi.

Jyothi farms together with her husband on just over 4 hectares of land. Until recently much of their land was given over to flooded paddy fields, where using the traditional transplanted method they grew rice for their family and for sale, creating an income allowing their two children to go to school.

For Jyothi and her husband, it had been this way for over 20 years – two decades in which the vast country of India around them grew to become one of the fastest-growing economies globally. While the other younger people from their village moved to the booming cities as the nation became digitally connected with a leading tech industry, they ploughed, prepared and flooded their fields, painstakingly transplanting by hand - the water making the use of machinery difficult - the seedlings into the water-logged fields and keeping the water level constant until harvest. This was their routine twice a year, with rice growing in both the kharif (wet) and rabi (dry) seasons.

farmers planting rice seedings
Around 80 percent of the world’s rice crop is produced using transplanted rice cultivation methods.

Until COVID-19.

The pandemic affected India disproportionally. The nationwide lockdown was one of the most extensive in the world affecting over 1.3 billion people and provoked a mass exodus of daily wage and migrant workers who returned to their hometowns in the absence of labor. Suddenly, the already scarce and expensive seasonal workers Jyothi relied upon, were gone.


Climate Change

With each passing year, India is experiencing more frequent and severe heatwaves and related problems such as water scarcity and drought, a result of climate change, researchers say. Agriculture is water intensive: farming globally uses about 70 percent of the world’s developed freshwater resources and 24−30 percent is consumed by rice. “Each summer is hotter and water scarcity in our region is becoming a real problem affecting agricultural production and the lives of local citizens”, explains Jyothi.

Transplanting cultivation of rice requires between 4,000 – 5,000 liters of water for every kilogram of grain produced
FieldsTransplanted rice is not only pressured by the effects of climate change; it is an important contributor. The flooded fields create ideal conditions for methane-producing bacteria which thrive on decomposing organic matter, mainly plant residue. The crop is today among the largest contributors of greenhouse gas, producing 1.5 percent of total emissions globally and responsible for 12 percent of global methane emissions - a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In Southeast Asia rice cultivation accounts for as much as 25-33 percent of the region’s methane emissions.

Feeding a growing world population

Finally, while India’s birth rate is slowing, demographic momentum means it will continue to be one of the fastest growing nations in the next two decades, with domestic consumption of rice expected to increase proportionately. On the export side, Africa – where more than half of global population growth is expected to occur over this same timeframe – is highly dependent on imports from India. This brings to the fore the importance of expanding rice output to meet future demand and improving access to this vital food.


The world therefore faces the enormous dual challenge of having to produce more rice for a growing population and doing so in a more climate-friendly and resource-efficient way.


Rising to the challenge, Bayer believes this is possible. One solution that holds great promise is to be found in a rice crop system based on direct-seeded rice.

With global population expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050, it is estimated that rice production will need to increase by 25 percent in this same timeframe to meet demand and keep prices stable.

Sowing the seeds of regenerative agriculture

“Using the most advanced R&D capabilities we are designing climate-resilient rice hybrids with higher yields that can be sown directly in the soil” explains Mike Graham, Head of Breeding at the Crop Science division.  “This removes the need for transplanting into paddy fields and enables the mechanization of otherwise arduous manual farming practices that are cost-heavy due the scarcity of labor,” 

Jyothi’s farm was one of the first in this region to switch to this cultivation method “Yield is good and cultivation convenient but my major relief is the reduced need and reliance on finding and being able to afford labor” she explains, “as a small farm we are able to save the equivalent of 500 USD a season which helps make our farm profitable and improves the well-being of our family.”

Direct-seeded rice will also protect our planet. Removing the need for flooded paddy fields will not only reduce the consumption of water, but its absence will also decrease greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health.

Bayer is also developing new ways for rice farmers to protect the hybrid plants from weeds, damaging insects and disease in the field.  The company is also providing rapidly advancing digital technologies offering agronomic insights, advice and access to services through the in-house digital platform FarmRise including Bayer’s carbon program enabling smallholders rice farmers to earn additional revenues for reducing emissions.

Mike Graham
“The combination of these solutions will help smallholder farmers cultivate rice in both a more economically viable and sustainable way. At Bayer, we are committed to building entire systems based on regenerative agriculture practices that create value for farmers and nature alike, and direct-seeded rice is a perfect example of this.”
Mike Graham
Head of Breeding at the Crop Science division

DirectAcres - Bringing Direct-Seeded Rice to the Ground 

Bayer’s DirectAcres is a program designed to help farmers as they transition from transplanted puddled rice to direct-seeded rice with maximum convenience and minimum risk.

We want to make farmers smallholders successful in their first attempt at direct-seeded rice cultivation. To do this we are working together with partners from across the rice value-chain and beyond to ensure farmers have access to the best innovation, services and agronomic advice"
Amit Trikha
Strategy Lead for Rice at Bayer

Since the program first launched as a pilot in 2021 on 100 hectares across the Northern Indian states, DirectAcres has seen considerable success with 99 percent of farmers achieving successful plant establishment and almost 75 percent a higher return on investment compared to rice grown using the transplanted method.

Now in 2023 Bayer plans to bring direct-seeded rice to 10,000 hectares and by 2030 aims to help 2 million farmers succeed over 1 million hectares in India.


And what are the plans for Jyothi and her family?

We will continue and expand direct-seeded rice on our farm. It is good for all: saving cost and improving the soil will benefit also my children who I hope will, on finishing school, farm this land.”

Direct-Seeded Rice - Driving our Sustainability Commitments

  • Reduce our customers’ on-field GHGs per kilogram of crop produced in our key markets by 30 percent
  • Empower 100 million smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries to sustainably increase their productivity, improve the quality of their produce and enhance their livelihoods
  • Improve water use per kilogram of crop by 25 percent by transforming the rice cropping system of our smallholder customers in the relevant regions where Bayer operates.
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