Soil Science Division
Rice Breeding activities were initiated at Batalagoda in 1952. Fertilizer experiments to find out the response of elite breeding lines to added fertilizer were started six years later. In 1980, a breeding program for stress tolerance rice varieties was initiated by Dr. D Senadeera and Dr. M P Dhanapala to produce rice varieties tolerant to abiotic stress. As such salinity screening beds were established at RRDI Batalagoda and soil science activities were directed to screen rice varieties for salt tolerance. In the late 80s, studies on rice straw as a source of fertilizer were started and Dr. S Amarasiri and his team initiated fertilizer experiments at Batalagoda to test the possibility of using rice straw as a fertilizer material in rice cultivation. In the meantime, separate rice plots were established at Batalagoda with no addition of any form of fertilizer to find out the long-term sustainability of rice cultivation without the addition of any fertilizer. In the early 90s, the Soil Science section was headed by Dr. WMADB Wickramasinghe and he started experiments to find out the response of improved rice varieties to added NPK fertilizer and organic manure. In 1993, Central Rice Breeding Station was converted to Rice Research and Development Institute and as a result Division of Soil Science was established at RRDI Batalagoda.
At the inception of the Division of Soil Science, there were only a few pieces of equipment and soil samples were sent to the HORDI Gannoruwa to test the samples for soil fertility parameters. After realizing the difficulties in soil analysis at faraway places, soil analytical facilities were strengthened in the Division of Soil Science by providing new equipment to Soil Science Division at RRDI. With these facilities, the Soil Science Division of RRDI became a fully functioning soil science laboratory. As a result, new NPK recommendations based on the target yield for rice were introduced. In early 2000 micronutrient studies at RRDI were started by Dr. WMJ Bandara and as a result, ZnSO4 was recommended as a fertilizer for rice. In 2005 fertilizer subsidy programme was initiated and as such use of fertilizer in rice cultivation in Sri Lanka has increased. Therefore, from 2010 onwards `fertilizer experiments at RRDI Batalagoda were directed towards the efficient use of N P and K fertilizer in paddy fields. Several experiments were conducted by Mr. DN Sirisena and his team at research fields as well as farmers’ fields to find out ways and means to improve the use efficiencies of added fertilizer in paddy fields. New fertilizer recommendation based on efficient use of N, P, and K fertilizer in 2013 was the outcome of that research work. With the changing climate, soil salinity in paddy fields become more concern to the Division of Soil Science, and two rice varieties (Bg 369 and Bg 310) tolerance to salinity were developed to improve productivity in salt-affected paddy fields. In 2015, bio fertilizer as a fertilizer material become popular and bio-fertilizer experiments at RRDI Batalagoda was initiated by Ms. DMPS Dissanayake and Ms. SPGS Pathirana. At present, soil health, soil fertility management, and improving the nutrient use efficiencies are the major thrust areas in the Division of Soil Science, and as such the team headed by Dr. WMUK Rathnayake strengthens the soil analysis and fertility mapping activities in the Division.