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SRI  -- The System of  Rice Intensification:  An Opportunity for  Improving Food Security  in Latin America? Norman Uphoff Cornell International Institute for Food,  Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) in cooperation with Association Tefy Saina (ATS)
More tillers and more than 400 grains per panicle
The  System of Rice Intensification   (SIMA) developed in Madagascar almost 2 decades ago can: Increase rice production -- double yield Improve food security esp. for poor HHs, Raise total factor productivity, and Enhance the environment -- cut demand for water by half, no use of agrochemicals
Sounds too good to be true But SRI is being tried in  more and more countries  around world. The reasons for SRI performance can be explained in  scientific terms . It should be  put to empirical tests ,  not just rejected on  a priori   grounds. SRI is like the agronomists’ $100 bill on the sidewalk.
SRI capitalizes on  potentials  that have long existed in the plant’s genetic endowment These potentials  have been  inhibited   by the  standard practices  for growing irrigated rice. SRI proposes  managing plants, soil, water and nutrients  in new ways .   These give us a different  phenotype  from the existing rice genome.
SRI gives an  opportunity  to raise concurrently the  productivity  of: Land Labor Capital Water Not having to make  tradeoffs  among them Also  reduces farmers’   costs of production
SRI   changes the ways  that farmers have grown irrigated rice for centuries, even millennia, using  simple methods . SRI  is  more accessible to the poor  because it does not depend on external inputs -- it requires  neither  use of new seeds  nor  application of agrochemicals  -- these are optional.
SRI  requires  only about half as much water per season   as when rice is grown in continuously flooded fields SRI  may contribute also to  reduction in greenhouse gas emissions  since rice grown in continuously flooded paddies accounts for about 25% of  methane   (CH 4 ) going into atmosphere
SRI  is  COUNTERINTUITIVE ,  because it enables us to get more from less Higher yields   result  from: Transplanting  younger, smaller seedlings Fewer plants  per hill & per m 2 Using  less water  per season, with Less or no need for purchased inputs
There is  mounting evidence   from a growing number of countries that  SRI does indeed have the  potentials  that were first reported from Madagascar -- now 15 countries.  Nobody is asked to accept and utilize SRI based just on our reports --  Let it be  tried and evaluated  by both  farmers and researchers .
Data from Sanya reports
The  main  objections   against  this methodology have been that: SRI requires  good water management SRI is  labor-intensive SRI appears  “ too good to be true” (1) Water control is  definitely necessary (2) But SRI also gives  higher returns to labor,  and over time, it can become  labor-saving (3) Appearing “too good to be true” only means that SRI should be subjected to  careful scrutiny
In  Madagascar , where yields average 2-2.5 t/ha, 100s of farmers in 2 programs (USAID and French) have averaged  8-9 t/ha  over a 5-year period -- on mostly very poor soils.
In  China , the first SRI trials at Nanjing Agric. University gave  9.2 to 10.5 t/ha . While these levels can be achieved in China with the best varieties and best techniques, these take  twice as much water  as applied with SRI.  SRI method used with  hybrid rice varieties  has given yields in the  12-15 t/ha  range.
In  Cambodia   and   Myanmar , where conventional yields are even lower than in Madagascar (2 t/ha), farmers using SRI have averaged  5-6 t/ha  with NGO guidance.
In  Sri Lanka , where the average yield is about 3.5 t/ha, farmers have averaged  ~8 t/ha  with SRI, with some farmers achieving much higher yields.
 
In  Sri Lanka and Madagascar , some farmers are getting yields in the range of  15 to 20 t/ha  once they have mastered the techniques and improved their soil quality. The maximum potential of SRI methodology remains to be fully realized.
SRI effects  are seen with  all varieties,   both traditional and high-yielding. Good news  for rice breeders is that very best results have come with  use of HYVs , e.g., IR15 (11-12 t/ha), IR46 (13.5 t/ha), BG235 (17 t/ha), Tainung 16 (21 t/ha) SRI is essentially  a set of  insights  and  principles   about  how to help rice plants   achieve more productive phenotypes  by realizing genetic potentials in the plant.
The basic  PRINCIPLES underlying SRI are:  (A) RICE  PLANTS  WILL PERFORM BETTER WITH: Careful transplanting ,  to minimize  trauma, Wide spacing ,   for canopy and root growth, of Young seedlings  (before 4th phyllochron) so rice plants’  growth potential will be preserved.
(B) RICE WILL PERFORM BETTER IN  SOIL   that is: Well-aerated   during the vegetative growth period, through: * careful water management, and * mechanical weeding (rotating hoe). Enriched microbiologically   through  * compost (SOM), and different (SRI) * plant/soil/water/nutrient management.
SRI  PRACTICES  – to be varied  according to local conditions are: Early transplanting  -- < 15 days, best between 8-12 days, only two tiny leaves Careful transplanting  – in 15-30 min., root laid into soil 1-2 cm, shaped like L > J Wide spacing  –  single plants  per hill, in a  square pattern ,  25x25cm, up to 50x50cm
SRI Practices  (continued) Well-drained soil  during vegetative growth phase –  with  no continuously standing water  – either by (a) daily application of small amounts, or (b) alternate wetting and drying (4-5 days)  After PI, keep a  thin layer of water  (1-2 cm);  and then drain ~15 days before harvesting Early and frequent weeding ,  start 10-12 DAT;  up to 4 times, using a “rotating hoe” Nutrient amendments  are recommended –  with  compost  preferred over chemical fertilizer,  best applied to the  preceding crop
 
 
 
 
 
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RESULTS  of SRI Practices These practices lead to  synergistic   (a)  Root development   with increased (b)  Increased tillering,  supporting  (c)  Greater grain filling. There appears also to be greater (d)  Resistance to pests and diseases
OBSERVABLE PHENOTYPICAL CHANGES attributable to SRI More tillers/plant   -- 30-50, even 100+ Larger root systems  –  root pulling resistance  of  28 kg /clump for  3   plants  grown conventionally vs.  53 kg /plant for  single  SRI plants -- >5x per plant Positive correlation  tillers/plant and grains/panicle – no lodging
Comparison of high-yield rice in tropical and subtropical environments: I: Determinants of grain and dry matter yields J. Ying, S. Peng, Q. He, H. Yang, C. Yang, R. M. Visperas, K. G. Cassman,  Field Crops Research , 57 (1998), p. 72. “… a  strong  compensation mechanism exists between the two yield components [panicle number and panicle size]” with a “ strong  negative relationship between the two components…” (emphasis added)
 
Rice is  not an aquatic plant The standard understanding of rice is that: “ Rice  thrives  on land that is water-saturated or even submerged during part or all of its growth cycle.” (p. 43) “ Most varieties maintain  better growth  and  produce higher grain yields  when grown in flooded soil than when grown in unflooded soil.” (pp. 297-298). S. K. DeDatta,  The Principles and Practices of Rice Production , J. W. Wiley, NY, 1981.
But in flooded (hypoxic) soil, rice roots remain   close to the surface. At 29 DAT, about  ¾ are in   top 6 cm  of soil (Kirk and Solivas 1997) Rice plant roots grown in flooded soil form  aerenchyma  (air pockets) through  disintegration of the cortex  which is “often almost total…[after PI] the main body of the root system is largely degraded and seems unlikely to be very active  in nutrient uptake” (Kirk and Bouldin 1991) Yet in unflooded soil  neither  irrigated nor upland varieties form  aerenchyma  (Puard et al. 1989)
Root cross-sections for  upland (left) and irrigated (right) varieties --  ORSTOM research by Puard et al. (1989)
Abstract Nature and growth pattern of rice root system under submerged and unsaturated conditions S. Kar, S. B. Varade, T. K. Subramanyam, and B. P. Ghildyal,   Il Riso  (Italy), 1974, 23:2, 173-179 Plants of the rice cultivar Taichung (Native) were grown in pots of sandy loam under 2 water regimes in an attempt to identify critical root-growth phases. Observations on root number, length, volume and dry weight were made at early tillering, active tillering, maximum tillering, and reproductive stages. Rice root degeneration ,  normally unique to submerged conditions , increased with advance in plant growth.  At flowering,   78%   had degenerated . During the first phase under flooding, and  throughout the growth period under unsaturated conditions,   roots rarely degenerated.
Explanation of  tiller and root growth  in terms of  phyllochrons These are periodic  intervals of plant growth  common to all the  gramineae   species -- in rice,  a  phyllochron  is usually from ~5-8 days During each  phyllochron , the plant produces from its apical meristem  1 or more   phytomers  (phytomer = a unit of a tiller, a leaf and a root) Phyllochrons  represent  biological rather than calendar time  –  they are lengthened/shortened by a number of factors that can  slow down  or  speed up  the plant’s  “biological clock”
 
 
Speeding up the biological clock Higher  temperature  vs.  cold  temperatures Wider  spacing   vs. root/canopy  crowding More  solar radiation   vs.  shade Ample  nutrients  in soil  vs.  nutrient deficits Soil  penetrability   vs. soil  compaction Sufficient  moisture  vs.  drought  conditions Sufficient  oxygen   vs.  hypoxic  conditions
Evidence of  Synergy Factorial trials by Faculty of Agriculture students at Univ. of Antananarivo, under  contrasting agroecological conditions : West coast near Morondava, 2000:  hot, dry climate, poor sandy soils, ~100m   High plateau at Anjomakely, 2001:  temperate climate, better soils, ~1200m
Evaluating Six Factors Variety:  HYV (2798) vs. local (riz rouge)  or   Soil quality:  clay (better) vs. loam (poor) Water mgmt:   aerated  vs. saturated soil Seedling age:   8 days  vs. 16 or 20 days Plants per hill:   1/hill  vs. 3/hill Fertilization:   compost  vs. NPK vs. none Spacing:  25x25cm vs. 30x30cm (NS diff.) 6 replications:  2.5x2.5m plots (N=288, 240)
 
 
Value of  Soil Aeration ? Data from 76 farmers at Ambatovaky,  1997-98 season Yield differentials analyzed according to  number of weedings  with “rotary hoe” Similar effect of weeding in data from thesis by Frederic Bonlieu (Univ of Anjers) 1 weeding = 4.2 t/ha, 2 weedings – 4.4 t/ha 3 weedings = 5.1 t/ha ($20 yields $210?)
 
Emergent Concerns from SRI Importance of  ROOTS DeDatta book on rice (1981): in chapter on the  “morphology, growth and development of the rice plant”  -- only  8   out of 390  lines of text on roots, and in 16-page  index  with 1,100 entries, not even  one  entry  on roots – “roots a waste”? Importance of  SOIL MICROBIOLOGY -- presently ignoring exudates, mycorrhizae, etc.
Root Exudation “ The amount of knowledge available on  exudation from rice plants   is minute …” (Wassman and Aulakh, 2000) Maize grown in a nutrient culture solution exuded  three times lower amount  of sugars and vitamins than exudation by plants grown in a solid substrate (Schönwitz and Ziegler, 1982)
Root Exudation  (cont’d) Exudation can cope with nutrient deficiencies through  mobilization of nutrients  at the root-soil interface (Nagarajah et al., 1970) Plants not only adjust the  quantity  but also the  quality  of root exudates, e.g., in the response to  deficiencies of Mn and Fe , and in the  secretion of nitrogenase   (Wassmann and Aulakh, 2000)
Root Exudation  (cont’d) Plants under stress  commonly  increase  their exudation rather than decrease it -- against usual expectations (Shigo, 2000) Nutrients transported in the phloem are  not just stored in plant organs   but are  given up  into the rhizosphere. Plants should be understood as  “two-way” streets,”   not “one-way” streets concerned only with  uptake  of  water and nutrients .
Importance of Microorganisms “ The main biochemical processes in flooded soil can be regarded as a series of successive oxidation-reduction reactions mediated by bacteria… “ The microbial flora cause a large number of biochemical changes in the soil that  largely determine   the fertility of the soil. ” (De Datta, 1981, p. 60, emphasis added)
Uptake of N is  Demand-Driven The  rate of uptake of N  by rice roots is  independent  of the  concentration of N  at the roots’ surface  (Kirk and Bouldin,1991). Rice roots ‘down-regulate’ their transport system for NH 4+  influx and/or ‘up-regulate’ the efflux, thereby  exuding ammonium  in excess of plant needs  (Ladha et al., 1998, emphases added).
Alternative Models for N Uptake Supply-Side Model  to Increase Growth Apply N to the soil   to raise N availability This assumes that rice  plants will take up more N if it is  easier for them to access N   because of  higher concentrations  in the root zone Demand-Driven Model for Promoting Growth Manage plants   in ways that  accelerate   their rate of growth This reflects an under-standing that  increased plant   demand  for N  is what   induces the roots  to take up more N
OBJECTIONS to SRI Slow Spread in Madagascar  -- true, but now changing with CRS and government support Data from French irrigation project around Antsirabe and Ambositra for period from 1994/95 to 1998/99 (Hirsch, 2000) SRI   area expanded  from  34.5 to 532.8 ha , without an active extension program SRI   yields   averaged   7.91-9.12 t/ha  vs.  3.58-3.95 t/ha  with recommended package  2.24-2.47 t/ha  with peasant practices
Difficulty in Replicating Results SRI has been one of the few agricultural innovations where  farmers have often gotten higher yields than researchers Usually it is the  reverse,  that researchers’ results are difficult to replicate on farmers’ fields -- farmers do better with SRI. Possible explanations may be found in evaluations of  soil microbiology.
SRI is  Labor-Intensive SRI does require 25-50%  more labor inputs , at least  initially  -- one study in Madagascar with 109 farmers found a  26% difference;   Sri Lankan analysis found an  11% difference But SRI time required is  reduced  as farmers gain skill and confidence; almost always  the  returns to labor are higher by 25-50% Some farmers who have mastered SRI techniques report that they are  labor-saving
If farmers are  labor-constrained , it is  most beneficial economically  for them to  use SRI  on as much of their land as they have enough labor for , to capture higher returns to all their factors of production (land, labor, capital, water), and then to   use   remaining land for  other purposes
SRI is  Skill-Intensive Yes, this can be seen as  a positive feature , rather than as  something negative  --  since it is a  BENEFIT  as well as a  COST Farmers involved in SRI evaluation and adaptation learn to become  more experimental and more innovative Being rewarded for unlearning old ways opens up  new avenues for development
SRI is about  HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT Not just about  MORE PRODUCTION OF RICE
SRI Needs  Better Water Control This is the  main requirement and limitation There will be  many areas  where SRI cannot be  presently  utilized for this reason But the greatly  increased factor productivity  with SRI should make new  investments  in water control infrastructure  profitable This kind of investment should  attract donors  that are interested in  food security, poverty reduction, and environmental benefits
There is  Not Enough Compost ? But compost is an  accelerator , not a requirement Most farmers in Madagascar with  doubled yields  are  not using compost   -- or NPK Most who get  tripled yields or more  are using compost If yields can be increased 2-3x, the  returns to labor  from making and applying compost can  justify growing biomass and harvesting it  from non-arable land areas
SRI is  Only Good on Small Scale Not a valid objection   if  poverty reduction  is an objective There are  many millions of small and poor farmers  with only 0.25-1.0 hectare of land SRI can be scaled up:  one early adopter has gone from 0.25 to 8.0 hectares -- now rich SRI methods can be adapted  to larger scale once the scientific principles are understood; SRI is not a fixed or finished technology
If SRI is So Good, Why Wasn’t SRI Discovered Before? Each of the main practices  looks risky   If a farmer’s family depends on rice harvest: Why plant  a tiny seedling , not larger one? Why plant  only one per hill , and not more? Why plant just  a few plants  per m 2  ? Why not provide the rice plants with    as much water as possible?   Makes no sense SRI fields look  terrible  for first 4-5 weeks
Practices seem  risky, even crazy The  chances  of someone doing  all of these together , at the same time, are  negligible Actually, some SRI practices such as single plants, well-drained soil, and use of compost have been  traditionally  used by farmers   But  active soil aeration   with  promotion of microbial activity  needed the  rotating hoe However, this was used for  row planting , which maintains relatively  dense spacing
SRI is Still a  “Work in Progress” We  invite others  to join in experimenting with and evaluating these methods. Scientific investigations  and  practical trials  by farmers should  proceed in parallel,   with  each contributing to the other . Implications  of SRI  insights and practices  should be considered  for  other crops  and  for agriculture in general .

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SRI An Opportunity for Improving Food Security in Latin America

  • 1. SRI -- The System of Rice Intensification: An Opportunity for Improving Food Security in Latin America? Norman Uphoff Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) in cooperation with Association Tefy Saina (ATS)
  • 2. More tillers and more than 400 grains per panicle
  • 3. The System of Rice Intensification (SIMA) developed in Madagascar almost 2 decades ago can: Increase rice production -- double yield Improve food security esp. for poor HHs, Raise total factor productivity, and Enhance the environment -- cut demand for water by half, no use of agrochemicals
  • 4. Sounds too good to be true But SRI is being tried in more and more countries around world. The reasons for SRI performance can be explained in scientific terms . It should be put to empirical tests , not just rejected on a priori grounds. SRI is like the agronomists’ $100 bill on the sidewalk.
  • 5. SRI capitalizes on potentials that have long existed in the plant’s genetic endowment These potentials have been inhibited by the standard practices for growing irrigated rice. SRI proposes managing plants, soil, water and nutrients in new ways . These give us a different phenotype from the existing rice genome.
  • 6. SRI gives an opportunity to raise concurrently the productivity of: Land Labor Capital Water Not having to make tradeoffs among them Also reduces farmers’ costs of production
  • 7. SRI changes the ways that farmers have grown irrigated rice for centuries, even millennia, using simple methods . SRI is more accessible to the poor because it does not depend on external inputs -- it requires neither use of new seeds nor application of agrochemicals -- these are optional.
  • 8. SRI requires only about half as much water per season as when rice is grown in continuously flooded fields SRI may contribute also to reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since rice grown in continuously flooded paddies accounts for about 25% of methane (CH 4 ) going into atmosphere
  • 9. SRI is COUNTERINTUITIVE , because it enables us to get more from less Higher yields result from: Transplanting younger, smaller seedlings Fewer plants per hill & per m 2 Using less water per season, with Less or no need for purchased inputs
  • 10. There is mounting evidence from a growing number of countries that SRI does indeed have the potentials that were first reported from Madagascar -- now 15 countries. Nobody is asked to accept and utilize SRI based just on our reports -- Let it be tried and evaluated by both farmers and researchers .
  • 11. Data from Sanya reports
  • 12. The main objections against this methodology have been that: SRI requires good water management SRI is labor-intensive SRI appears “ too good to be true” (1) Water control is definitely necessary (2) But SRI also gives higher returns to labor, and over time, it can become labor-saving (3) Appearing “too good to be true” only means that SRI should be subjected to careful scrutiny
  • 13. In Madagascar , where yields average 2-2.5 t/ha, 100s of farmers in 2 programs (USAID and French) have averaged 8-9 t/ha over a 5-year period -- on mostly very poor soils.
  • 14. In China , the first SRI trials at Nanjing Agric. University gave 9.2 to 10.5 t/ha . While these levels can be achieved in China with the best varieties and best techniques, these take twice as much water as applied with SRI. SRI method used with hybrid rice varieties has given yields in the 12-15 t/ha range.
  • 15. In Cambodia and Myanmar , where conventional yields are even lower than in Madagascar (2 t/ha), farmers using SRI have averaged 5-6 t/ha with NGO guidance.
  • 16. In Sri Lanka , where the average yield is about 3.5 t/ha, farmers have averaged ~8 t/ha with SRI, with some farmers achieving much higher yields.
  • 17.  
  • 18. In Sri Lanka and Madagascar , some farmers are getting yields in the range of 15 to 20 t/ha once they have mastered the techniques and improved their soil quality. The maximum potential of SRI methodology remains to be fully realized.
  • 19. SRI effects are seen with all varieties, both traditional and high-yielding. Good news for rice breeders is that very best results have come with use of HYVs , e.g., IR15 (11-12 t/ha), IR46 (13.5 t/ha), BG235 (17 t/ha), Tainung 16 (21 t/ha) SRI is essentially a set of insights and principles about how to help rice plants achieve more productive phenotypes by realizing genetic potentials in the plant.
  • 20. The basic PRINCIPLES underlying SRI are: (A) RICE PLANTS WILL PERFORM BETTER WITH: Careful transplanting , to minimize trauma, Wide spacing , for canopy and root growth, of Young seedlings (before 4th phyllochron) so rice plants’ growth potential will be preserved.
  • 21. (B) RICE WILL PERFORM BETTER IN SOIL that is: Well-aerated during the vegetative growth period, through: * careful water management, and * mechanical weeding (rotating hoe). Enriched microbiologically through * compost (SOM), and different (SRI) * plant/soil/water/nutrient management.
  • 22. SRI PRACTICES – to be varied according to local conditions are: Early transplanting -- < 15 days, best between 8-12 days, only two tiny leaves Careful transplanting – in 15-30 min., root laid into soil 1-2 cm, shaped like L > J Wide spacing – single plants per hill, in a square pattern , 25x25cm, up to 50x50cm
  • 23. SRI Practices (continued) Well-drained soil during vegetative growth phase – with no continuously standing water – either by (a) daily application of small amounts, or (b) alternate wetting and drying (4-5 days) After PI, keep a thin layer of water (1-2 cm); and then drain ~15 days before harvesting Early and frequent weeding , start 10-12 DAT; up to 4 times, using a “rotating hoe” Nutrient amendments are recommended – with compost preferred over chemical fertilizer, best applied to the preceding crop
  • 24.  
  • 25.  
  • 26.  
  • 27.  
  • 28.  
  • 29. .
  • 30.  
  • 31. RESULTS of SRI Practices These practices lead to synergistic (a) Root development with increased (b) Increased tillering, supporting (c) Greater grain filling. There appears also to be greater (d) Resistance to pests and diseases
  • 32. OBSERVABLE PHENOTYPICAL CHANGES attributable to SRI More tillers/plant -- 30-50, even 100+ Larger root systems – root pulling resistance of 28 kg /clump for 3 plants grown conventionally vs. 53 kg /plant for single SRI plants -- >5x per plant Positive correlation tillers/plant and grains/panicle – no lodging
  • 33. Comparison of high-yield rice in tropical and subtropical environments: I: Determinants of grain and dry matter yields J. Ying, S. Peng, Q. He, H. Yang, C. Yang, R. M. Visperas, K. G. Cassman, Field Crops Research , 57 (1998), p. 72. “… a strong compensation mechanism exists between the two yield components [panicle number and panicle size]” with a “ strong negative relationship between the two components…” (emphasis added)
  • 34.  
  • 35. Rice is not an aquatic plant The standard understanding of rice is that: “ Rice thrives on land that is water-saturated or even submerged during part or all of its growth cycle.” (p. 43) “ Most varieties maintain better growth and produce higher grain yields when grown in flooded soil than when grown in unflooded soil.” (pp. 297-298). S. K. DeDatta, The Principles and Practices of Rice Production , J. W. Wiley, NY, 1981.
  • 36. But in flooded (hypoxic) soil, rice roots remain close to the surface. At 29 DAT, about ¾ are in top 6 cm of soil (Kirk and Solivas 1997) Rice plant roots grown in flooded soil form aerenchyma (air pockets) through disintegration of the cortex which is “often almost total…[after PI] the main body of the root system is largely degraded and seems unlikely to be very active in nutrient uptake” (Kirk and Bouldin 1991) Yet in unflooded soil neither irrigated nor upland varieties form aerenchyma (Puard et al. 1989)
  • 37. Root cross-sections for upland (left) and irrigated (right) varieties -- ORSTOM research by Puard et al. (1989)
  • 38. Abstract Nature and growth pattern of rice root system under submerged and unsaturated conditions S. Kar, S. B. Varade, T. K. Subramanyam, and B. P. Ghildyal, Il Riso (Italy), 1974, 23:2, 173-179 Plants of the rice cultivar Taichung (Native) were grown in pots of sandy loam under 2 water regimes in an attempt to identify critical root-growth phases. Observations on root number, length, volume and dry weight were made at early tillering, active tillering, maximum tillering, and reproductive stages. Rice root degeneration , normally unique to submerged conditions , increased with advance in plant growth. At flowering, 78% had degenerated . During the first phase under flooding, and throughout the growth period under unsaturated conditions, roots rarely degenerated.
  • 39. Explanation of tiller and root growth in terms of phyllochrons These are periodic intervals of plant growth common to all the gramineae species -- in rice, a phyllochron is usually from ~5-8 days During each phyllochron , the plant produces from its apical meristem 1 or more phytomers (phytomer = a unit of a tiller, a leaf and a root) Phyllochrons represent biological rather than calendar time – they are lengthened/shortened by a number of factors that can slow down or speed up the plant’s “biological clock”
  • 40.  
  • 41.  
  • 42. Speeding up the biological clock Higher temperature vs. cold temperatures Wider spacing vs. root/canopy crowding More solar radiation vs. shade Ample nutrients in soil vs. nutrient deficits Soil penetrability vs. soil compaction Sufficient moisture vs. drought conditions Sufficient oxygen vs. hypoxic conditions
  • 43. Evidence of Synergy Factorial trials by Faculty of Agriculture students at Univ. of Antananarivo, under contrasting agroecological conditions : West coast near Morondava, 2000: hot, dry climate, poor sandy soils, ~100m High plateau at Anjomakely, 2001: temperate climate, better soils, ~1200m
  • 44. Evaluating Six Factors Variety: HYV (2798) vs. local (riz rouge) or Soil quality: clay (better) vs. loam (poor) Water mgmt: aerated vs. saturated soil Seedling age: 8 days vs. 16 or 20 days Plants per hill: 1/hill vs. 3/hill Fertilization: compost vs. NPK vs. none Spacing: 25x25cm vs. 30x30cm (NS diff.) 6 replications: 2.5x2.5m plots (N=288, 240)
  • 45.  
  • 46.  
  • 47. Value of Soil Aeration ? Data from 76 farmers at Ambatovaky, 1997-98 season Yield differentials analyzed according to number of weedings with “rotary hoe” Similar effect of weeding in data from thesis by Frederic Bonlieu (Univ of Anjers) 1 weeding = 4.2 t/ha, 2 weedings – 4.4 t/ha 3 weedings = 5.1 t/ha ($20 yields $210?)
  • 48.  
  • 49. Emergent Concerns from SRI Importance of ROOTS DeDatta book on rice (1981): in chapter on the “morphology, growth and development of the rice plant” -- only 8 out of 390 lines of text on roots, and in 16-page index with 1,100 entries, not even one entry on roots – “roots a waste”? Importance of SOIL MICROBIOLOGY -- presently ignoring exudates, mycorrhizae, etc.
  • 50. Root Exudation “ The amount of knowledge available on exudation from rice plants is minute …” (Wassman and Aulakh, 2000) Maize grown in a nutrient culture solution exuded three times lower amount of sugars and vitamins than exudation by plants grown in a solid substrate (Schönwitz and Ziegler, 1982)
  • 51. Root Exudation (cont’d) Exudation can cope with nutrient deficiencies through mobilization of nutrients at the root-soil interface (Nagarajah et al., 1970) Plants not only adjust the quantity but also the quality of root exudates, e.g., in the response to deficiencies of Mn and Fe , and in the secretion of nitrogenase (Wassmann and Aulakh, 2000)
  • 52. Root Exudation (cont’d) Plants under stress commonly increase their exudation rather than decrease it -- against usual expectations (Shigo, 2000) Nutrients transported in the phloem are not just stored in plant organs but are given up into the rhizosphere. Plants should be understood as “two-way” streets,” not “one-way” streets concerned only with uptake of water and nutrients .
  • 53. Importance of Microorganisms “ The main biochemical processes in flooded soil can be regarded as a series of successive oxidation-reduction reactions mediated by bacteria… “ The microbial flora cause a large number of biochemical changes in the soil that largely determine the fertility of the soil. ” (De Datta, 1981, p. 60, emphasis added)
  • 54. Uptake of N is Demand-Driven The rate of uptake of N by rice roots is independent of the concentration of N at the roots’ surface (Kirk and Bouldin,1991). Rice roots ‘down-regulate’ their transport system for NH 4+ influx and/or ‘up-regulate’ the efflux, thereby exuding ammonium in excess of plant needs (Ladha et al., 1998, emphases added).
  • 55. Alternative Models for N Uptake Supply-Side Model to Increase Growth Apply N to the soil to raise N availability This assumes that rice plants will take up more N if it is easier for them to access N because of higher concentrations in the root zone Demand-Driven Model for Promoting Growth Manage plants in ways that accelerate their rate of growth This reflects an under-standing that increased plant demand for N is what induces the roots to take up more N
  • 56. OBJECTIONS to SRI Slow Spread in Madagascar -- true, but now changing with CRS and government support Data from French irrigation project around Antsirabe and Ambositra for period from 1994/95 to 1998/99 (Hirsch, 2000) SRI area expanded from 34.5 to 532.8 ha , without an active extension program SRI yields averaged 7.91-9.12 t/ha vs. 3.58-3.95 t/ha with recommended package 2.24-2.47 t/ha with peasant practices
  • 57. Difficulty in Replicating Results SRI has been one of the few agricultural innovations where farmers have often gotten higher yields than researchers Usually it is the reverse, that researchers’ results are difficult to replicate on farmers’ fields -- farmers do better with SRI. Possible explanations may be found in evaluations of soil microbiology.
  • 58. SRI is Labor-Intensive SRI does require 25-50% more labor inputs , at least initially -- one study in Madagascar with 109 farmers found a 26% difference; Sri Lankan analysis found an 11% difference But SRI time required is reduced as farmers gain skill and confidence; almost always the returns to labor are higher by 25-50% Some farmers who have mastered SRI techniques report that they are labor-saving
  • 59. If farmers are labor-constrained , it is most beneficial economically for them to use SRI on as much of their land as they have enough labor for , to capture higher returns to all their factors of production (land, labor, capital, water), and then to use remaining land for other purposes
  • 60. SRI is Skill-Intensive Yes, this can be seen as a positive feature , rather than as something negative -- since it is a BENEFIT as well as a COST Farmers involved in SRI evaluation and adaptation learn to become more experimental and more innovative Being rewarded for unlearning old ways opens up new avenues for development
  • 61. SRI is about HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT Not just about MORE PRODUCTION OF RICE
  • 62. SRI Needs Better Water Control This is the main requirement and limitation There will be many areas where SRI cannot be presently utilized for this reason But the greatly increased factor productivity with SRI should make new investments in water control infrastructure profitable This kind of investment should attract donors that are interested in food security, poverty reduction, and environmental benefits
  • 63. There is Not Enough Compost ? But compost is an accelerator , not a requirement Most farmers in Madagascar with doubled yields are not using compost -- or NPK Most who get tripled yields or more are using compost If yields can be increased 2-3x, the returns to labor from making and applying compost can justify growing biomass and harvesting it from non-arable land areas
  • 64. SRI is Only Good on Small Scale Not a valid objection if poverty reduction is an objective There are many millions of small and poor farmers with only 0.25-1.0 hectare of land SRI can be scaled up: one early adopter has gone from 0.25 to 8.0 hectares -- now rich SRI methods can be adapted to larger scale once the scientific principles are understood; SRI is not a fixed or finished technology
  • 65. If SRI is So Good, Why Wasn’t SRI Discovered Before? Each of the main practices looks risky If a farmer’s family depends on rice harvest: Why plant a tiny seedling , not larger one? Why plant only one per hill , and not more? Why plant just a few plants per m 2 ? Why not provide the rice plants with as much water as possible? Makes no sense SRI fields look terrible for first 4-5 weeks
  • 66. Practices seem risky, even crazy The chances of someone doing all of these together , at the same time, are negligible Actually, some SRI practices such as single plants, well-drained soil, and use of compost have been traditionally used by farmers But active soil aeration with promotion of microbial activity needed the rotating hoe However, this was used for row planting , which maintains relatively dense spacing
  • 67. SRI is Still a “Work in Progress” We invite others to join in experimenting with and evaluating these methods. Scientific investigations and practical trials by farmers should proceed in parallel, with each contributing to the other . Implications of SRI insights and practices should be considered for other crops and for agriculture in general .