Monday, February 20, 2012

KENYA: SRI Adoption and Yields on the Rise

Bancy Mati at SRI harvest According to Bancy Mati (at left), the driving force behind SRI promotion and research in Kenya and professor at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is now well-accepted just two and a half years after the practice was introduced into Mwea Irrigation Scheme. Approximately 3,000 farmers have been trained in SRI methods and adopters now number about 2,000 in the four irrigation schemes (Ahero, West Kano, Bunyala and Mwea). Mati estimates that thousands more have been reached through radio broadcasts (also in local languages), newspaper articles, exhibitions and open days sponsored by the JKUAT open days.

 This 2011-2012 season has shown good results with yields: Up to 9 t/ha for the lower-yielding Basmati variety compared to 5 t/ha with conventional management and over 17 t/ha for a high-yielding IR variety compared to 9 t/ha without SRI practices. Research findings also indicate water savings ranging from 25% in dry weather to 33% in wet weather. Several graduate theses have proven the benefits of SRI and additional research is underway by graduate students and staff of JKUAT, Mwea Irrigation Development Centre (MIAD), and recently Moi University. MSc research has also shown that show that SRI water management breaks the mosquito breeding cycle, showing good prospects for malaria control!

Kenyan farmers as well as other rice stakeholders are excited about SRI. A bag of SRI paddy reportedly weighs 10-20 kg more than that of conventional rice, mostly because of greater grain filling (fewer unfilled grains). When milled, the SRI rice has more whole grains (less breakage) so it sells faster, sometimes earning KSh2/kg (˜2.5¢/kg) more than conventional rice.

As part of the regular training to reach the unreached, an SRI field day was held  in Mwea on January 30, 2012. The training was conducted almost entirely by several of the 115 farmers who have completed the Training of Trainers (ToT) course. [Read more in the Kenya Feature on the SRI-Rice website.]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SRI LANKA: Evidence of Flood Resistance in SRI Paddies

It is not unusual to hear reports of rice fields planted with System of Rice Intensification (SRI) methods that do not lodge (fall over) in inclement weather or that can resist drought when the rains disappear. These positive outcomes are, at least in part, attributed to stronger, deeper roots that result from SRI practices. Now, reports from Sri Lanka suggest that SRI fields can be less susceptible to flood damage as well. Farmers in the north central region noticed that the paddy fields under SRI cultivation had not suffered as severely during recurring floods as per the experience in the northeast. According to an Oxfam Australia (OAU) report, this helped renew interest in SRI during 2010/2011. The report further mentions that research in Sri Lanka linking arsenic-related health problems to agricultural chemicals used in rice production have spurred an additional interest in organic SRI. (See Feb. Feature item for more information on this and the SRI Network in Sri Lanka).

As SRI generates more positive results, SRI network partners have been featured in newspaper articles, radio broadcasts and telecasts. Chaminda Fernando at OAU in Sri Lanka forwarded us several of these stories. Mohommed Ismail Rizana (at right), a woman farmer in Ampara District, achieved almost 80 bushels of rice with organic SRI methods, a 45% increase over average rice yields in the area (see full story).  R. M. Heenmenike, originally tried SRI in 2008 to save water. After her success in adopting organic SRI methods, she has become a volunteer SRI trainer and has been featured in newspaper articles and a video. (Read Heenmenike's story.)