The pilot project of a drone-powered model rice growing operation in Prey Veng province has been lauded as a success. The project was developed by the Agricultural and Rural Development Bank (ARDB), using a foreign variety of paddy rice and modern technology to cultivate 5ha of fields.

Following another sample harvest, the ARDB may soon distribute the seed variety to other communities in the province.

On September 2, ARDB director-general Kao Thach inspected the rice harvested from the field, located in Svay Antor district. The project used drones to sow seeds, resulting in a large reduction in the amount required.

The pilot was implemented in order to attempt to reduce costs and mitigate the use of paddy rice seeds by farmers.

ARDB deputy director-general and spokesperson Chan Seiha said on September 3 that the model field was the first to employ drone technology sow seeds, meaning just 30kg of seeds were used to plant each hectare. Sowing by hand requires between 200kg and 250kg per hectare. The amount of fertiliser needed was also drastically reduced.

“We worked in partnership with a local miller, who allowed us to try and cultivate the 5ha site,” he added.

“We are studying whether we can now breed this seed on our own. It appears to be a good variety as it produces soft rice and can be harvested in about 95 days,” he explained.

He noted that aside from the advanced cultivation techniques and high quality seeds, the favourable conditions and fertile soil of Prey Veng province also contributed to an excellent yield. Following this harvest, specialists will keep the seeds for replanting and see if the excellent results can be repeated.

“This variety was imported from abroad for testing, so we need to conduct more experiments to make sure it is suitable for replanting. If the next harvest is good, we intend to distribute it to agricultural communities in Prey Veng,” he said.

Khun Saem, president of the Ba Phnom Meanchey Agricultural Cooperative in Prey Veng province, said that currently, his cooperative cultivates three varieties of rice: Phkar Romduol, Sen Kra’op 01, and OM54. In 2022, the community planted more than 268 tonnes.

He believed that the community would be happy to accept new rice varieties for cultivation, as long as the seeds are easy to grow and low maintenance. He noted that many farmers had turned away from planting fragrant rice varieties because it is difficult to grow and requires close attention.

“We would like to try new varieties. Farmers are interested in varieties that are resistant to the weather, need less maintenance and produce high yields. Mills in Prey Veng do not buy a lot of the fragrant Sen Kra’op 01, so we do not grow as much. Of course, we don’t only sell in our province, we export our produce across the Kingdom,” he said.

According to the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), there are thousands of rice varieties grown in Cambodia. The institute has conducted research into more than 2,000 kinds, with more than 1,000 remaining popular for cultivation.