© 2015 Cambridge University Press. In this study, we compared the weed emergence, water input, water saving, water productivity, panicle sterility, yield outputs and economic returns of transplanting with alternate wetting and drying (TRAWD) and dry direct seeding (DSR) with transplanting under continuous flooding (TRCF) using three fine-grain rice cultivars: Super Basmati; Basmati 2000; and Shaheen Basmati. Higher weed infestation was recorded in DSR than in TRCF and TRAWD. Raising rice as TRAWD and DSR had considerable water savings but a lower grain yield than TRCF. High panicle sterility was primarily responsible for low grain yield in TRAWD and DSR systems. Nonetheless, water productivity was better in DSR and TRAWD than TRCF. Shaheen Basmati in the DSR system and Basmati 2000 in TRCF fetched the highest economic returns during 2008 and 2009, respectively. In conclusion, fine-grain rice cultivars can be grown in water-saving production systems (e.g. TRAWD and DSR); however, these water-saving production systems might incur a yield penalty.