SRI (background) vs. traditional planting

Earth Links is excited about the work the new nonprofit SRI Global, Inc., and SRI Rice at Cornell University are doing. In 2012, we are looking forward to working with both groups to develop education materials on SRI rice production in Latin America, with an emphasis on producing training materials for farmers. These farmers range from small land owners producing for personal consumption to large land owners that will need access to methods of production that involve mechanization of planting and weeding.

The wider spacing of seedlings in SRI

With the growing projected gap between world food production and the estimation of need of 9 billion people in 2050, we believe SRI has an absolutely critical role to play in bridging that that gap while contributing to the health of the environment and to farmers. SRI allows for an increase in yield that can be substantial, an up to 90% reduction in seed purchases, and a possible reduction in methane gas emissions. Importantly, SRI can significantly reduce the amount of water necessary for irrigation, the costs associated with this water, as well as reducing the impact on the environment that agricultural water can cause.

Here is a selection of resources published between June 2010 and January 2012 that illustrate the production increases and water savings possible for farmers growing rice with SRI techniques. (All of the resources below have been gleaned from the SRI Rice website at Cornell University.)

  • SRI in East and South Africa (youtube video): overview of positive personal experiences with SRI
  • Here is an excellent slide presentation on the science behind SRI.
  • The more academic scientific work being done on SRI, though, is just as interesting. Check out this special issue of Paddy and Water Managementfocusing on SRI, edited by Norman Uphoff and Amir Kassam ( Volume 9, Number 1 / March 2011).

    SRI plants (left) versus traditional plant (right)

  • For-profit companies are recognizing the benefits of SRI rice’s sustainability: Lotus Foods was an early proponent of the environmental benefits of SRI.
  • In fall 2011, the First International Workshop on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Latin America and the Caribbean was held at Earth University in Costa Rica. Click here to see a report on the conference.
  • Following on the momentum generated by the Costa Rica conference, a workshop was held in Havana, Cuba in December 2011 to explore how Cuban rice production might further benefit from SRI methods. Like much of the world, water resources in Cuba are scarce: 47% of the total water used for agriculture is consumed by rice production alone, a critical situation indeed.
  • Some areas in the world are aiming for 100% of rice production to be SRI.
  • Jim Carrey has become a major supporter and spokesperson for SRI. His contribution has been both as a high-profile educator and as a financial supporter of innovative projects. LINK
  • In the popular press worldwide, news of SRI’s water savings, increased yields, and increased income potential for farmers is more and more regularly appearing in print. There are many examples on Cornell’s excellent SRI website, which is organized by country and makes for interesting reading.
  • In Kenya, farmers are adopting SRI techniques and going on to successfully train other farmers. This is a very interesting process, which can accumulate rapidly. Click through to Cornell’s SRI website for more detail on this inspiring story of how early adopters of SRI are spreading SRI all over Kenya.
  • In Afghanistan, farmers have been applying SRI methods for rice cultivation in two districts of Baghlan and Takhar provinces, as part of the Participatory Management of Irrigation Systems (PMIS) project. The project is part of the larger government-led Panj-Amu River Basin Program (PARBP), which is funded by the European Union. A field day and exposure visits between the two areas provided opportunities for the farmers to discuss their successes and problems with one another. According to measurements taken in the field, the average results clearly show a net improvement in SRI yield compared to the yield with the traditional methods. See Cornell’s SRI website for more details.

For those wishing to closely follow SRI development, click through and like Cornell’s Facebook page or subscribe to their Twitter feed.

All photos are of SRI rice in Cuba, taken by Rena Perez.