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1603 - Improving Food Production for Health in a Water-constrained World - Agroecology and SRI


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Author: Norman Uphoff
Title: Improving Food Production for Health in a Water-Constrained World: Opportunities from Agroecological Knowledge and Experience (SRI)
Presented at: Water for Health Lecture Series, Nebraska Water Center
Date: February 24, 2016

Published in: Technology
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1603 - Improving Food Production for Health in a Water-constrained World - Agroecology and SRI

  1. 1. Improving Food Production for Health in a Water-Constrained World: Opportunities from Agroecological Knowledge and Experience (SRI) Norman Uphoff SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice), Cornell University Water for Health Lecture Series, Nebraska Water Center, February 24, 2016
  2. 2. CHALLENGE: To support larger and healthier populations, we will need to increase our global food production by >50% in the decades ahead This ambitious TARGET must be achieved with; •Diminishing arable LAND per capita -- so land-extensive strategies become less tenable •Supplies of WATER in large areas of the world are becoming both reduced and less reliable •We must conserve our NATURAL RESOURCES with growing concern for environmental quality •All this must be accomplished under conditions of CLIMATE CHANGE – which will affect the agriculture sector most adversely
  3. 3. THE GREEN REVOLUTION PARADIGM although reasonably successful in the 20th century is unlikely to serve us as well in the 21st century • This technology is a ‘thirsty’ technology which has relied mainly on genetic improvements and inorganic/agrochemical inputs to raise yields • In recent decades, its gains have been decelerating, and it has encountered diminishing returns • It ignored two basic factors that contribute to crop productivity and agricultural sustainability: root systems and beneficial soil biota • Alternatives should at least be considered.
  4. 4. Diminishing returns to fertilizer inputs are very evident in Chinese experience At the start of China’s Green Revolution, farmers’ agronomic N-use efficiency was 15-20 kg rice/kg N •By 1981-83, this had fallen to 9.1 kg rice/kg N (Lin, 1991) • By 2001, it was 6.4 kg rice/kg N in Zhejiang province (Wang et al., 2001) • By 2006, this ratio was 5-10 kg rice/kg N (Peng et al., 2006) – and it is still declining S.B. Peng et al., “Improving N fertilization in rice… “ Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 30 (2010), 649-656.
  5. 5. This has adverse environmental consequences as nitrate (NO3) levels in China’s groundwater supplies have been rising rapidly, due to the overuse of N fertilizer – based on the belief that if some is good, more is better? Already >10 years ago, in many parts of China, the level of NO3 in groundwater was >300 ppm -- in the US, EPA allowance is only 50 ppm J.L. Hatfield, “Nitrogen over-use, under-use and efficiency.” Paper presented to 4th International Crop Science Congress, Brisbane, Australia, September, 2004 This kind of agricultural practice has unacceptable consequences and a bleak future
  6. 6. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) developed in Madagascar 30+ years ago is well-suited for the conditions of our 21st century agricultureHigher yields per hectare -- with fewer inputs needed and with more resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses •SRI is not a technology but methodology for crop management = new ideas and insights, thinking outside our current ‘boxes’ •SRI does not depend on using new or improved varieties or on the purchase and use of inorganic fertilizers and agrochemicals •SRI reduces crop water requirements and is drought- tolerant •SRI crops are more resistant to pests & diseases – less
  7. 7. Fr. Henri de Laulaniè on a field visit in Madagascar
  8. 8. SRI rice field in Madagascar with a traditional variety; reported yield was 17 t/ha – could have been less
  9. 9. Good example of different phenotypic expression of crop genetic potential The stump of a rice plant (modern variety) with 223 tillers and massive roots grown from a single seed using SRI methods in Indonesia -- Panda’an, E. Java, 2009
  10. 10. Two plants of the same variety (VN 2084) and same age (52 DAS)
  11. 11. Comparison trials at Al-Mishkhab Rice Research Station, Najaf, Iraq
  12. 12. 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 I H H FH MR WR YR Graindryweight(g/hill) Stage SRI I H H FH MR WR YR CK Yellow leaf and sheath Panicle Leaf Sheath Stem 47.9% 34.7% Non-Flooding Rice Farming Technology in Irrigated Paddy Field Dr. Tao Longxing, China National Rice Research Institute, 2004
  13. 13. Other Benefits from Changes in Practices 1. Water saving – major concern in many places, also now have ‘rainfed’ version with similar results 2. Greater resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses – less damage from pests and diseases, drought, typhoons, flooding, cold spells [discuss tomorrow] 3. Shorter crop cycle – same varieties are harvested by 1-3 weeks sooner, save water, less crop risk 4. High milling output – by about 15%, due to fewer unfilled grains (less chaff) and fewer broken grains 5. Reductions in labor requirements – widely reported incentive for changing practices in India and China; also, mechanization is being introduced many places 6. Reductions in costs of production – greater farmer income and profitability, also health benefits Drought-resistance in Sri Lanka: Rice fields 3 weeks after their irrigation was stopped because of drought -- conventionally-grown field is on left, and SRI field is on right-- same variety, same soil, same climate
  14. 14. Storm resistance in Vietnam: Adjacent fields after being hit by a tropical storm in Dông Trù village, Hanoi province On left: SRI field and rice plant; on right, conventional field and plant Same variety was used in both fields -- on right, we see serious lodging; on left, no lodging
  15. 15. Resistance to both biotic and abiotic stresses in East Java, Indonesia: both fields were hit by brown planthopper (BPH) and tropical storm – field on left grown with standard practices; field on right is organic SRI Modern improved variety (Ciherang) – no yield Traditional aromatic variety (Sintanur) - 8 t/ha
  16. 16. SRI practices are now being used beyond rice with the broader System of Crop Intensification (SCI) Farmer-led innovations with civil society help improve: •Wheat (SWI) -- India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Mali •Sugarcane (SSI) -- India, Cuba, Tanzania •Finger millet (SFMI) -- India, Ethiopia •Mustard (rapeseed/canola) -- India •Sorghum – Ethiopia •Tef -- Ethiopia Also: maize, soya bean, black gram, green gram, red gram, tomatoes, chilies, eggplant, sesame, green leafy vegetables, turmeric, cumin, coriander, etc. --
  17. 17. SWI wheat crop in Bihar state of India, Chandrapura village, Khagarla district – wheat fields are same age, same variety
  18. 18. Mature tef crop with full heads of grain under STI management in Ethiopia – in 2014/15, >2.2 million farmers using ‘STI-lite’ DS methods
  19. 19. Spread/Adoption/Adaptation of SRI since 2000 More than 10 million farmers are benefiting from the use of SRI methods and ideas in >50 countries (end of 2015) on 3.5 to 4.0 million hectares SRI-Rice (2014)
  20. 20. SRI is recommended practice for ‘save and grow’ cultivation of rice (FAO, 2016) Websites for information: World Bank: http://info. IFAD: english/sri/ IRRI: Cornell University:
  21. 21. Evidence on water saving and productivity: A meta-analysis of 29 published studies (2006-2013), with results from 251 comparison trials across 8 countries Water use: SRI mgmt 12.03 million liters ha-1 Standard 15.33 million liters ha-1 SRI reduction in total water use = 22% SRI reduction in irrigation water use = 35% with 11% more yield: SRI 5.9 tons ha-1 vs. 5.1 tons ha-1 (usually SRI yield increase is much greater than this) Total WUE 0.6 vs. 0.39 grams/liter (52% more) Irrigation WUE 1.23 vs. 0.69 grams/liter (78%more) P. Jagannath, H. Pullabhotla and N. Uphoff, “Evaluation of water use, water saving and water use efficiency in irrigated rice production with SRI vs. traditional management,” Taiwan Water Conservancy (2013)
  22. 22. Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total SRI area (ha) 1,133 7,267 57,400 117,267 204,467 252,467 301,067 941,068 SRI yield (kg/ha) 9,105 9,435 8,805 9,075 9,300 9,495 9,555 9,252 Non-SRI yield (kg/ha) 7,740 7,650 7,005 7,395 7,575 7,710 7,740 7,545 SRI increment (t/ha)* 1,365 1,785 1,800# 1,680 1,725 1,785 1,815# 1,708 SRI % increase in yield* 17.6% 23.3% 25.7% 22.7% 22.8% 23.2% 23.5% 22.7% Increased grain (tons ) 1,547 12,971 103,320 197,008 352,705 450,653 546,436 1,664,640 Added net income due to SRI (million RMB)* 1.28 11.64 106.51 205.10 450.85 571.69 704.27 2,051 ($300 m) * Comparison for SRI paddy yield and profitability is with Sichuan provincial average # In drought years, SRI yields were relatively higher than with conventional methods Source: Data are from the Sichuan Provincial Department of Agriculture. CHINA: SRI in Sichuan -- evidence of drought resistance
  23. 23. More productive phenotypes give higher water-use efficiency within plants as measured by the ratio of photosynthesis : transpiration For each 1 millimol of water lost by transpiration, 3.6 micromols of CO2 are fixed in SRI plants vs. 1.6 micromols of CO2 fixed in RMP plants This becomes more important with climate change and as water becomes a scarcer factor of production “An assessment of physiological effects of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) compared with recommended rice cultivation practices in India,” A.K. Thakur, N. Uphoff and E. Antony Experimental Agriculture, 46(1), 77-98 (2010)
  24. 24. Results of trials conducted by the China National Rice Research Institute over two years, 2004-2005, using 2 super-hybrid varieties, with the aim of breaking the ‘yield plateau’ now limiting hybrids Standard Rice Mgmt • 30-day seedlings • 20x20 cm spacing • Continuous flooding • Fertilization: – 100% chemical New Rice Mgmt (~ 75% SRI) • 20-day seedlings • 30x30 cm spacing • Alt. wetting/drying (AWD) • Fertilization: – 50/50 chemical/organic X.Q. Lin, D.F. Zhu, H.Z. Chen, S.H. Cheng and N. Uphoff (2009). “Effect of plant density and nitrogen fertilizer rates on grain yield and nitrogen uptake of hybrid rice (Oryza sativa L.)” Journal of Agricultural Biotechnology and Sustainable Development, 1(2): 44-53
  25. 25. Yields (kg/ha) with ‘new rice management’ vs. standard rice management at different plant densities/ha 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000 150,000 180,000 210,000 NRM SRM Plant population per hectare SRI practices yield more productive phenotypes -- Chinese farmers are WASTING seeds and water and N fertilizer
  26. 26. Environmental Benefits with SRI: 1. Reduced water requirements – higher crop water-use efficiency -- puts less pressure on ecosystems in competition with agriculture for water supplies 2. Higher land productivity – reducing pressures for the expansion of arable area to feed growing populations 3. Less use of inorganic fertilizer – reactive N is “the third major threat to our planet after biodiversity loss and climate change” (John Lawton, former chief executive, UK National Environmental Research Council) 4. Less reliance on agrochemicals for crop protection - which enhances the quality of both soil and water 5. Buffering against the effects of climate change – drought, storms (resist lodging), cold temperatures 6. Net reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) – CH4 can be
  27. 27. WATER for FOOD for HEALTH • Farmers in developing countries, for whom and by whom SRI and SCI have been evolved, should be able with their currently available resources to meet their own households’ and other’ food needs more satisfactorily than they can at present. • The water requirements for this can be lowered by enhancing crop root growth and the abundance and diversity of the soil biota. These two fundamental factors for agricultural productivity were largely ignored -- and indeed were often impeded -- in the Green Revolution. • An open question is the extent to which U.S. scientists and farmers can and will learn from this overseas experience, taking these ideas seriously and scaling-up agroecological modes of production -- SRI ideas + conservation agriculture?
  28. 28. THANK YOU Web page: Email: [NTU-one]