Friday, December 11, 2009

Update on SRI in Afghanistan

Some initial attempts to introduce the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) into Afghanistan were made as early as 2003, but sustained efforts began only in 2007 when the NGO German Agro-Action (GAA) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) began working with the methods in northern Afghanistan. Recently we have received a 2009 seasonal report from AKF which will interest many readers.
The first AKF trials were planted one month later than the usual rice crop, and given the short growing season at high altitudes, yield was lower than regular methods, although the SRI tillering was impressive – enough so that six farmers did proper comparison trials in 2008, and their average yield as measured by AKF technicians was a remarkable 10.1 t/ha. This was enough to spark greater interest among farmers.
In 2009, 42 farmers applied SRI methods to rice cultivation in 3 districts of Baghlan and Takhar provinces, including 7 farmers with SRI experience who functioned as resource persons (RPs), each working with 5 new volunteers. The on-farm comparison trials were carried out with supervision from the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)-managed Participatory Management of Irrigation Systems (PMIS) project, which is part of the larger government-led Panj-Amu River Basin Program (PARBP) funded by the EU.
Although an unreported number of other farmers dropped out of the evaluation because of Taliban threats, 42 managed their crops through to harvest, with average SRI yields of 9.3 t/ha, 66% more than their yields with traditional methods, 5.6 t/ha. Experienced farmers (those in their second year of trials) increased their land size under SRI and got 27% higher SRI yield compared to their first-year SRI yields.
The AKF-Afghanistan program, in addition to its 2009 SRI report, has prepared an excellent practical manual, available on CIIFAD's SRI website in the Afghanistan section. SRI activities by German Agro Action (GAA), CIIFAD and others are also noted on the country website.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World Bank President Robert Zoellick Notes SRI's Potential

A December 2 article by World Bank President Robert Zoellick published online in the Hindustan Times makes a very favorable reference to SRI. The article, India could be a new pole of global growth: World Bank president, notes in paragraph 11: “Everyone cites India’s Green Revolution. But I’m even more intrigued by what is known as SRI, or system of rice intensification, and I know this is also an area of interest or PM Manmohan Singh. Using smart water management and planting practices, farmers in Tamil Nadu have increased rice yields between 30 and 80 per cent, reduced water use by 30 per cent, and now require significantly less fertilizer. This emerging technology not only addresses food security but also the water scarcity challenge that climate change is making all the more dangerous. These are all lessons for our world.” (Comments can be posted after the article if you would like to respond.)

Nemani Chandrasekhar subsequently pointed out in a SRI-India discussion group posting that Zoellick is visiting India from December 2-5, 2009, and during his visit will meet Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and several members of the Union Cabinet. He will also meet the CEOs of leading private sector companies in addition to interacting with farmers and rural communities on water issues. [For information on joining the SRI-India discussion group, see For information on groups in other countries, see our SRI Groups and Websites page]

The World Bank Institute News also recently covered the SRI toolkit that includes, among other items, videos on SRI.

A new 10 minute video by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University's IAMWARMP project shows some of the progress in Tamil Nadu that is referred to in Zoellick's article. This Tamil language video with English subtitles covers SRI experiences of the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation and Water Bodies Restoration and Management Project in Tamil Nadu India. [See our list of other SRI videos]

There are many resources about SRI in India online. Two excellent sites are the ICRISAT-WWF Project's SRI-India site and the WASSAN SRI site maintained by the Watershed Support Services and Activities Network.

Friday, November 13, 2009

SRI mechanization in Pakistan

In Pakistan's Punjab Province, Mr. Asif Sharif has designed and tested four machines/implements that enable him to cultivate with SRI concepts and adapted methods on a large scale. The results of the first full mechanization of System of Rice Intensification cultivation methods (called MSRI for "mechanized SRI") have been recently reported on the SRI website. Yields averaged 13 tons/ha. Mr. Sharif devised/modified the implements to substantially reduce the labor requirements for capitalizing on SRI inherent production potentials – and to reduce the crop water requirements by 70% over usual levels of irrigation in Punjab state of Pakistan. (See details of the MSRI process provided by Sharif). The implements include a raised bed maker (that can also carry out banding with compost and fertilizer), a water wheel transplanter (see video), and a precision weeder/soil aerator (see video), among others. An Urdu language interview with Mr. Sharif which was broadcast on Pakistani TV is also available (part I and part II).

Many others around the world have developed or improved upon SRI-related implements and labor-saving machines. We have reported earlier on mechanical transplanters adapted for SRI in Costa Rica and Iraq; and there are others we haven't reported on (for example, here's a farmer-made SRI transplanter in Tamil Nadu) or haven't found yet. Improvements on the rotary weeder used in SRI, including many motorized versions, are ongoing in many countries- especially India. (The WASSAN website has much information on weeders).These are topics for another day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Welcome to the SRI News and Views

Welcome to the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) blog! We will use it to pass on information about new SRI initiatives that we learn about, new knowledge resources and project updates that are posted on our website at

For those visiting our blog who are new to the System of Rice Intensification, you can find details about SRI methods and where it is practiced on our primary website or the other websites maintained in several languages by the global SRI community (see web links in the blog's right-hand column).

For those of you who came across our page and don't know what SRI is, briefly:-- The SRI methodology was synthesized in the early 1980s by Fr. Henri de LaulaniƩ in Madagascar. SRI increases rice production and raises the productivity of land, labor, water and capital through several management practices. Although many have adapted SRI to fit their own circumstances, here are the basics:

- Very young (usually just 8-12 days old), single rice seedlings are carefully transplanted in a square grid pattern with a wide spacing (25x25 cm or wider - even up to 50x50 cm with good quality soil).
- Fields are not kept flooded. Soil is kept moist but well-drained and aerated, with good structure and enough organic matter to support increased biological activity. (Only a minimum of water is applied during the vegetative growth period, and then only a thin layer of water is maintained on the field during the flowering and grain filling stage.) There are several water management variations.
- Soil nutrient supplies should be augmented, preferably with compost, made from any available biomass. Better quality compost such as with manure can give additional yield advantages. Many practice organic SRI, although chemical fertilizer can be used and gives better results than with no nutrient amendments. (However, chemical fertilizers contribute less to good soil structure and active microbial communities in the rhizosphere than does organic matter.)
- Weeding, made easier with a rotary hoe, is necessary at least once or twice, starting 10-12 days after transplanting, and preferably 3 or 4 times before the canopy closes.

While SRI can be implemented by most rice farmers, it has been especially beneficial for resource-limited farmers (including those in conflict/post-conflict, post-disaster and other marginalized areas) because yields are increased without relying on external inputs, while risks are reduced. SRI practices use on average 40-50% less water, up to 90% less seed and require less labor overall (after familiarization with the practices). In addition, higher yields are not dependent on purchasing improved seed and agricultural chemicals. Among other benefits noted by various practitioners and researchers are reduced pest/disease incidence, reduced lodging (due to stronger root systems), earlier harvest, reduced methane emissions and reduced environmental degradation (when chemicals are reduced).

SRI methods are also being adapted for other crops such as sugarcane, wheat and millet. We will also be reporting on these topics as news items come up.

We look forward to passing on SRI news and views - including successes, controversies, updates from our main SRI website and other useful information we find in the field or out in cyberspace...