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Apr 24, 2012

Less is More - Asian Farmers Support System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

Rice on right produced using SRI methods
Photo: SRI-Rice
On 24 April 2012 IRIN published an article on the growing acceptance of "system rice intensification" (SRI) across Asia.  This is a way of planting that uses less seed, less water, less pesticides and less chemical fertilizers yet increases yields.  It is an agricultural method that is promoted by the SRI-Rice, the International Network and Resources Centre based at Cornell University.

The SRI idea was first conceived and tested by a Jesuit priest in Madagascar in the 1980s.  It is now spreading throughout Asia and is starting to be used by farmers growing other commodity crops such as wheat and sugarcane.  It is supported by Agriculture Ministries across Asia including China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Recent initiatives by other international bodies include:

  • support from China's CAAS
  • support from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  •  European Union-financed project in the Mekong River basin in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam (September 2011) 
  • Asian Development Bank-funded project in Laos (February 2012).
  • IRRI is evaluating SRI, trying to determine the methodology.  In fact, SRI-Rice has reported many variations on the system: in Sri Lanka and Thailand, direct seeding replaced transplanting seedlings; in Cambodia and Nepal, home-made weeders cut weeding time by two-thirds; in Philippines and Myanmar, SRI was adapted to growing rain-fed, or non-irrigated, rice.

SRI in part refutes that the two pillars of the 1st Green Revolution were not necessary to achieve increased yields.

"According to Dominic Glover, a scientist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, which specializes in food science, concern over SRI reflects not only disagreements on scientific questions, but also different perspectives on the role of agricultural researchers."

For more see: "Why rice intensification matters in Asia," IRIN Press Release, 24 April 2012.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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