The System of Rice Intensification (SRI): Opportunity for Agronomic, Economic, Environmental, Cultural and Social Sustainability

Norman Uphoff
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SRI, developed 20 years ago in Madagascar, involves only changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients -- no new varieties and no external inputs are needed. Its methods produce more productive and robust phenotypes from any rice genotype.

HYVs and hybrids give highest yield, but with SRI, traditional varieties can give 6-12 t/ha yields so it makes local cultivars more attractive and can conserve rice biodiversity, having cultural and social benefits as well as agronomic ones.

With SRI, rice paddies are not kept continuously flooded, compost is used in preference to chemical fertilizer, and plants are more resistant to pest and diseases, so there is water saving and reduced use of agrochemicals, which is good for the environment.

Lowering the cost of production together with higher yield raises farmers’ incomes; and SRI drought-, storm- and other resistance lowers risks. Initially, SRI is more labor-intensive, but in several countries, farmers are now even finding that SRI can be labor-saving.

This all sounds ‘too good to be true,’ but there are sound scientific explanations for the effects of different SRI practices, which include wider spacing, younger transplants, aerated soil, and increased soil organic matter. There is no ‘magic’ involved in SRI.

This paper reviews the methods and experience of SRI in the context of what these methods can contribute to environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability.

Keywords: System of Rice Intensification, Water-saving Rice Production, Environmental Benefits, Rice Profitability, Sustainability of Rice Production
Stream: Environmental Sustainability, Economic Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Norman Uphoff

Professor of Government and International Agriculture, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), Cornell University

Managing editor of forthcoming book on ‘Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems’ (CRC Press, 2005) with 50 chapters contributed by 102 professionals from multiple disciplines in 28 countries. Advisor on participatory irrigation management during the 1980s in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Indonesia, and previous work on local institutions and rural development generally.

Ref: S06P0326