Rainfed rice production in Lao PDR is critical to national food security; under traditional transplanting methods farmers are exposed to climate risks at both the onset and the conclusion of the wet season. Production of the annual crop has a high labour requirement especially during transplanting and harvesting. We engaged with smallholder farmers to investigate the feasibility of one form of dry seeding of rice, i.e. mechanised dry drill seeding, which in this paper we refer to as “dry seeding”. We hypothesised that dry seeded rice crops will be established earlier in the wet season and will produce a comparable yield while requiring less water and labour than transplanted rice. Field trials, supported by scenario modelling using the APSIM model, indicated average dry seeded rice yields are comparable to average transplanted yields over the longer term but with reduced risk of crop failure, under both current (1971–2011) and near-future (2021–2040) climates, for two common soil types. Net overall labour savings reduce the cost of rice production under mechanised dry seeding, better positioning households against fluctuations in labour costs and rice prices. Mechanised dry seeding requires different crop management to traditional methods and will not be appropriate for all farmers. Performance of DSR under future climate scenarios is projected to be as good as or better than under current climate conditions.
Mechanised dry seeding is an adaptation strategy for managing climate risk