Globally, increasing water scarcity and higher production costs are the challenges in the cultivation of conventional transplanted rice (TPR). Under such conditions, dry direct-seeded rice (DDSR) with water-saving techniques like alternate wetting and drying (AWD) or aerobic rice system (AR) is a promising solution. Continuous flooded (CF) and water-saving irrigation techniques (AWD and AR) for different aromatic rice varieties have been rarely compared under conventional TPR and conservation DDSR production systems in monetary terms. This study was conducted to compare the economic benefits and cost of production for two aromatic rice varieties (Basmati 515 and Chenab Basmati) under three irrigation techniques (CF, AWD and AR) and two production systems (TPR and DDSR). The DDSR reduced the cost of production (16%) and increased the net field benefits (36%) due to reduced total water inputs and land management charges as compared to TPR. Overall, AWD irrigation was more economical due to higher gross income (8%), net field benefits (27%), highest benefit–cost ratio (36%) and better marginal rate of return as compared to CF. Cultivating Chenab Basmati was more profitable than Basmati 515 under DDSR, while Basmati 515 performed well under TPR as compared to Chenab Basmati and had higher net field benefits (7%) and net returns (16%). In conclusion, cultivation of early maturing variety under water-saving production system (DDSR) and water-saving irrigation management (AWD) has the potential to maximize economic returns and marginal rate of return, while reducing the cost of production and also a pragmatic solution for sustainable rice production.
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