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AGROECOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES WITH
THE SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION (SRI)
AND SYSTEM OF CROP INTENSIFICATION (SCI)
Norman Uphoff
SRI International Network and Resource
Center (SRI-Rice), Cornell University, USA
SRI-MAS International Webinar Series on
AGROECOLOGY AND COMMMUNITY
June 25, 2021
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
• SRI was developed in Madagascar by Fr. Henri de
Laulanié, S.J., over a 20-year period of working with
farmers and conducting his own experiments.
• The basic components of SRI were assembled in
1983-84, with subsequent modifications.
• NGO Association Tefy Saina was formed in 1990.
• In 1994, Cornell and Tefy Saina started working
together under a USAID project in Madagascar.
• After three seasons in which farmers whose yields
had been 2 t/ha had average yields of 8 t/ha by
using SRI methods with the same varieties on the
same poor soils, SRI’s validity was clear.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
• CIIFAD at Cornell began trying to get researchers and
farmers in other countries to try out the methods for
themselves to see if similar results could be obtained.
• In 1999-2000, SRI was validated outside Madagascar in
China and Indonesia, then Philippines, Indonesia,
Sri Lanka, India, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Gambia....
• Farmers in India, Ethiopia, Mali and other countries
began adapting SRI ideas and methods to other crops
leading to the System of Crop Intensification:
• Millet (India), Wheat (India, Ethiopia and Mali),
Sugarcane, Mustard, Eggplant (India), Tef
(Ethiopia), Green Leafy Vegetables (Sierra Leone),
even Carrots and Apples (USA)….. many adaptations
Picture of Fr. Laulanie making a field
visit shortly before his death in 1995
Picture sent from Cuba in 2004
These rice plants are the same variety and same age --
VN 2084 -- 52 days after sowing in the same nursery
Pictures of SRI plants sent by
rice researchers in Iran and Iraq
Picture sent by Iraqi researcher in 2006
Pairs of trial plots with different varieties at the Al-Mishkhab Rice
Research Station, near Basra -- in each pair, SRI methods on left
Resistance to storm damage (wind and
rain) – pictures sent from Vietnam and
Taiwan
Picture given by an Indonesian farmer
who cultivated the field on the right
On left: modern variety, use of fertilizer
and chemicals; on right, traditional
aromatic variety, organic SRI methods
Both fields had
been hit by brown
planthoppers and
tropical storm
How is this possible? No magic
• By creating a more conducive environment for
growth, above-ground and especially below-
ground, SRI methods evoke more productive and
robust PHENOTYPES from any GENOTYPE,
i.e., from any given variety. [what is phenotype?
]
• This explanation underlies all of agroecology,
whose aim is to mobilize biological processes and
potentials that already exist in crop plants and
soil.
• This thinking can be applied also to animal husbandry.
Basic (Initial) SRI Practices
1. Young seedlings (8-12 d; maximum of 15 d),
before 4th phyllochron of growth; transplant
carefully and quickly, with no root trauma
2. Transplant single plants per hill – 2 plants if
the soil is very fertile
3. Square planting (25x25 cm)
– wider (30 cm) if soil is
very fertile, closer (20 cm)
if soil is not fertile; want
optimally sparse planting; reduce plant
Basic (Initial) SRI Practices
4. No continuous flooding (AWD) – keep the
soil mostly aerobic, for roots and aerobic
organisms
5. Mechanical weed control – actively aerate the
soil as well as bury weeds (as green manure)
6. Add organic matter, as
much as possible, in
preference to fertilizer
6. was not an original SRI
practice; organic matter is
Subsequent Evolution of SRI
Practices
• Rainfed SRI – where there is no irrigation
• Direct seeding – to save labor
• Use of mulch to control weeds
• Inoculation of seedlings to enhance soil biota
• Extending AWD through whole cycle – even
more water saving, with more yield (Thakur)
• Raised beds – converge with Conserv.
Agriculture
• Integration within farming systems – with fish,
horticulture, mushrooms, potatoes, etc.
• Extension/extrapolation to OTHER CROPS
Farmers’ finger millet trials in India,
2006
SFMI panicles and roots, India, 2006
SWI wheat field (on left) in Bihar,
India
SWI wheat panicles grown in Mali on left; conventional on rig
Sugarcane in India
Growing cane from widely-spaced seedlings (instead
of setts) raises yield 30-100% and saves sugarcane for
milling
Teff in Ethiopia
Teff grains are the size of mustard seeds, so
growing seedlings and transplanting them seemed
like a crazy idea; but the yield could be 3-6x
greater
Green Leafy Vegetables in Sierra
Leone
Transplanting young
seedlings widely
spaced gives 10x more
yield than
broadcasting seed
USA: Carrots and apples in
Maine
SRI is More than Certain Practices -
-
Basic Principles Underlie SRI
Practices
• Establish plants early, quickly and carefully --
avoid trauma to the roots as they are source of
growth [1]
• Maintain low plant density -- optimize
development of each individual plant; minimize
competition for nutrients, water, and sunlight [2, 3]
• Reduce and control the application of water --
provide only as much water as necessary to
maintain mostly aerobic soil conditions [4, 5]
– No flooding  passive soil aeration
– Mechanical weeding  active aeration (+ green
SRI is More than Certain Practices -
-
Basic Principles Underlie SRI
Practices
• Enrich the soil with organic matter to improve
soil structure and water-holding capacity; support
microbial life; provide good substrate for roots [6]
• Elicit more productive/robust phenotypes from
a given genotype; genetic traits (variety)
important, but capitalize on potentials in crop
plants and soil!
• Think ecologically – plant-soil-microbial
SRI rice field in Madagascar with a traditional variety;
reported yield was 17 t/ha – could have been less
Kharif season 2011: Harvested SRI rice from the field of
Sumant Kumar, Darveshpura village, Bihar state of India;
measured yield was 22.4 tons/hectare with hybrid variety
and INM; 4 other farmers in village got >19 tons/hectare.
INDONESIA:
Example of phenotypic
expression of genetic
potential:
Stump of a rice plant
(modern variety)
grown under
SRI management 
223 tillers + massive
root growth -- grown
from a single seed
Panda’an, E. Java, 2009
SRI
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
IH H FH MR WR YR
Stage
Organ
dry
weight(g/hill)
IH 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, 2002
Beyond / Underlying SRI Practices
and SRI Principles is SRI
Philosophy
• Empiricism – “The rice plant is my teacher”
[mon maître, my master] – Henri de Laulanié
– “You can observe a lot by just watching.” – Yogi Berra, well-known
American philosopher and NY Yankees All-Star baseball catcher
– Note: False negatives can be as wrong and harmful as false positives.
• Humanism – put farmers’ interests first –
seek minimum dependence on external inputs
(INM, IPM); encourage experimentation and
innovation
– Development of people – not just ‘grow more rice’
-- Tefy Saina means ‘improve the mind/mentality’
– Participatory methods – farmer-centered R & D,
Beyond / Underlying SRI Practices
and SRI Principles is SRI
Philosophy
• Environmentalism -- respect for the natural
environment; protect and conserve it; nurture
nature, rather than exploit nature
• Understand that less can produce more –
don’t assume we always expend more to get
more ; transcend standard benefit-cost ratio
thinking
• ‘Post-modern agriculture’ – this is most
modern agriculture; more scientific approach +
more
What Is Needed?
• Paradigm shift for agriculture  agroecology,
which includes IPM, agroforestry, Conservation
Farming, etc.
• Understand and work with the soil biota better: cf.
Chinese and Malaysian research; e.g., inoculation
• Stress organic matter: improve the means to
produce, acquire, process and apply OM to build up
soil system
• Water control – water is becoming scarcer and more
valuable; make investments in hardware and software
– Optimize water deliveries to save water (Thakur research)
• Mechanization – to reduce labor requirements, and
Mechanical making of raised beds on a
laser-leveled field (8 ha) in Punjab
province
Multi-purpose machine that punches holes
in raised beds (22.5 x 22.5 cm) and fills
holes with water after 10-d seedlings are
dropped in
Mechanical weeding is done with a precision
tractor-weeder that can operate without an
operator
Average yield of 12.8 t/ha
This innovation produced 3x typical yield in Punjab
with 70% less water and 70% less labor – but high
capital costs
• More profitable with other crops: wheat and maize,
sugarcane, carrots, and potatoes – mechanized SCI
-- Many simpler examples of mechanization for SRI rice
-- This is an area where innovation is just getting started
• SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:
– ‘OUTSIDE-THE-BOX’ THINKING is needed
– Both SRI/SCI are still ‘WORK IN PROGRESS’
• Not finished yet, and probably will never be
finished
– Conclusion of Sanya conference (2002) – ‘WALK
ON BOTH LEGS’ – both research and practical
applications are needed together, not in sequence
SRI field in Madagascar with a traditional variety – no lodging
THANK YOU

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  • 1. AGROECOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITIES WITH THE SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION (SRI) AND SYSTEM OF CROP INTENSIFICATION (SCI) Norman Uphoff SRI International Network and Resource Center (SRI-Rice), Cornell University, USA SRI-MAS International Webinar Series on AGROECOLOGY AND COMMMUNITY June 25, 2021
  • 2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND • SRI was developed in Madagascar by Fr. Henri de Laulanié, S.J., over a 20-year period of working with farmers and conducting his own experiments. • The basic components of SRI were assembled in 1983-84, with subsequent modifications. • NGO Association Tefy Saina was formed in 1990. • In 1994, Cornell and Tefy Saina started working together under a USAID project in Madagascar. • After three seasons in which farmers whose yields had been 2 t/ha had average yields of 8 t/ha by using SRI methods with the same varieties on the same poor soils, SRI’s validity was clear.
  • 3. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND • CIIFAD at Cornell began trying to get researchers and farmers in other countries to try out the methods for themselves to see if similar results could be obtained. • In 1999-2000, SRI was validated outside Madagascar in China and Indonesia, then Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Gambia.... • Farmers in India, Ethiopia, Mali and other countries began adapting SRI ideas and methods to other crops leading to the System of Crop Intensification: • Millet (India), Wheat (India, Ethiopia and Mali), Sugarcane, Mustard, Eggplant (India), Tef (Ethiopia), Green Leafy Vegetables (Sierra Leone), even Carrots and Apples (USA)….. many adaptations
  • 4. Picture of Fr. Laulanie making a field visit shortly before his death in 1995
  • 5. Picture sent from Cuba in 2004 These rice plants are the same variety and same age -- VN 2084 -- 52 days after sowing in the same nursery
  • 6. Pictures of SRI plants sent by rice researchers in Iran and Iraq
  • 7. Picture sent by Iraqi researcher in 2006 Pairs of trial plots with different varieties at the Al-Mishkhab Rice Research Station, near Basra -- in each pair, SRI methods on left
  • 8. Resistance to storm damage (wind and rain) – pictures sent from Vietnam and Taiwan
  • 9. Picture given by an Indonesian farmer who cultivated the field on the right On left: modern variety, use of fertilizer and chemicals; on right, traditional aromatic variety, organic SRI methods Both fields had been hit by brown planthoppers and tropical storm
  • 10. How is this possible? No magic • By creating a more conducive environment for growth, above-ground and especially below- ground, SRI methods evoke more productive and robust PHENOTYPES from any GENOTYPE, i.e., from any given variety. [what is phenotype? ] • This explanation underlies all of agroecology, whose aim is to mobilize biological processes and potentials that already exist in crop plants and soil. • This thinking can be applied also to animal husbandry.
  • 11. Basic (Initial) SRI Practices 1. Young seedlings (8-12 d; maximum of 15 d), before 4th phyllochron of growth; transplant carefully and quickly, with no root trauma 2. Transplant single plants per hill – 2 plants if the soil is very fertile 3. Square planting (25x25 cm) – wider (30 cm) if soil is very fertile, closer (20 cm) if soil is not fertile; want optimally sparse planting; reduce plant
  • 12. Basic (Initial) SRI Practices 4. No continuous flooding (AWD) – keep the soil mostly aerobic, for roots and aerobic organisms 5. Mechanical weed control – actively aerate the soil as well as bury weeds (as green manure) 6. Add organic matter, as much as possible, in preference to fertilizer 6. was not an original SRI practice; organic matter is
  • 13. Subsequent Evolution of SRI Practices • Rainfed SRI – where there is no irrigation • Direct seeding – to save labor • Use of mulch to control weeds • Inoculation of seedlings to enhance soil biota • Extending AWD through whole cycle – even more water saving, with more yield (Thakur) • Raised beds – converge with Conserv. Agriculture • Integration within farming systems – with fish, horticulture, mushrooms, potatoes, etc. • Extension/extrapolation to OTHER CROPS
  • 14. Farmers’ finger millet trials in India, 2006
  • 15. SFMI panicles and roots, India, 2006
  • 16. SWI wheat field (on left) in Bihar, India
  • 17. SWI wheat panicles grown in Mali on left; conventional on rig
  • 18. Sugarcane in India Growing cane from widely-spaced seedlings (instead of setts) raises yield 30-100% and saves sugarcane for milling
  • 19. Teff in Ethiopia Teff grains are the size of mustard seeds, so growing seedlings and transplanting them seemed like a crazy idea; but the yield could be 3-6x greater
  • 20. Green Leafy Vegetables in Sierra Leone Transplanting young seedlings widely spaced gives 10x more yield than broadcasting seed
  • 21. USA: Carrots and apples in Maine
  • 22. SRI is More than Certain Practices - - Basic Principles Underlie SRI Practices • Establish plants early, quickly and carefully -- avoid trauma to the roots as they are source of growth [1] • Maintain low plant density -- optimize development of each individual plant; minimize competition for nutrients, water, and sunlight [2, 3] • Reduce and control the application of water -- provide only as much water as necessary to maintain mostly aerobic soil conditions [4, 5] – No flooding  passive soil aeration – Mechanical weeding  active aeration (+ green
  • 23. SRI is More than Certain Practices - - Basic Principles Underlie SRI Practices • Enrich the soil with organic matter to improve soil structure and water-holding capacity; support microbial life; provide good substrate for roots [6] • Elicit more productive/robust phenotypes from a given genotype; genetic traits (variety) important, but capitalize on potentials in crop plants and soil! • Think ecologically – plant-soil-microbial
  • 24. SRI rice field in Madagascar with a traditional variety; reported yield was 17 t/ha – could have been less
  • 25. Kharif season 2011: Harvested SRI rice from the field of Sumant Kumar, Darveshpura village, Bihar state of India; measured yield was 22.4 tons/hectare with hybrid variety and INM; 4 other farmers in village got >19 tons/hectare.
  • 26. INDONESIA: Example of phenotypic expression of genetic potential: Stump of a rice plant (modern variety) grown under SRI management  223 tillers + massive root growth -- grown from a single seed Panda’an, E. Java, 2009
  • 27. SRI 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 IH H FH MR WR YR Stage Organ dry weight(g/hill) IH 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, 2002
  • 28. Beyond / Underlying SRI Practices and SRI Principles is SRI Philosophy • Empiricism – “The rice plant is my teacher” [mon maître, my master] – Henri de Laulanié – “You can observe a lot by just watching.” – Yogi Berra, well-known American philosopher and NY Yankees All-Star baseball catcher – Note: False negatives can be as wrong and harmful as false positives. • Humanism – put farmers’ interests first – seek minimum dependence on external inputs (INM, IPM); encourage experimentation and innovation – Development of people – not just ‘grow more rice’ -- Tefy Saina means ‘improve the mind/mentality’ – Participatory methods – farmer-centered R & D,
  • 29. Beyond / Underlying SRI Practices and SRI Principles is SRI Philosophy • Environmentalism -- respect for the natural environment; protect and conserve it; nurture nature, rather than exploit nature • Understand that less can produce more – don’t assume we always expend more to get more ; transcend standard benefit-cost ratio thinking • ‘Post-modern agriculture’ – this is most modern agriculture; more scientific approach + more
  • 30. What Is Needed? • Paradigm shift for agriculture  agroecology, which includes IPM, agroforestry, Conservation Farming, etc. • Understand and work with the soil biota better: cf. Chinese and Malaysian research; e.g., inoculation • Stress organic matter: improve the means to produce, acquire, process and apply OM to build up soil system • Water control – water is becoming scarcer and more valuable; make investments in hardware and software – Optimize water deliveries to save water (Thakur research) • Mechanization – to reduce labor requirements, and
  • 31. Mechanical making of raised beds on a laser-leveled field (8 ha) in Punjab province
  • 32. Multi-purpose machine that punches holes in raised beds (22.5 x 22.5 cm) and fills holes with water after 10-d seedlings are dropped in
  • 33. Mechanical weeding is done with a precision tractor-weeder that can operate without an operator Average yield of 12.8 t/ha
  • 34. This innovation produced 3x typical yield in Punjab with 70% less water and 70% less labor – but high capital costs • More profitable with other crops: wheat and maize, sugarcane, carrots, and potatoes – mechanized SCI -- Many simpler examples of mechanization for SRI rice -- This is an area where innovation is just getting started • SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: – ‘OUTSIDE-THE-BOX’ THINKING is needed – Both SRI/SCI are still ‘WORK IN PROGRESS’ • Not finished yet, and probably will never be finished – Conclusion of Sanya conference (2002) – ‘WALK ON BOTH LEGS’ – both research and practical applications are needed together, not in sequence
  • 35. SRI field in Madagascar with a traditional variety – no lodging THANK YOU