Agricultural Economics: “Productivity enhancement in agriculture need not always be capital intensive. SRI demonstrates it.”

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a methodology aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in farming. It is a low water, labor intensive, organic method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools. 30 years ago it was first developed in Madagascar. However full testing and spread of the system throughout the rice growing regions of the world did not occur until some years later with the help of Universities like Cornell.

The SRI method of growing crops has been developed over 30 years by small farmers in more than 20 countries. It centres on improving the management of the soil, water and nutrients, rather than bolstering the seed, which has been the focus of scientific research for decades.

SRI involves significantly reducing the number of rice seeds planted, transplanting them to the fields when they are much younger than usual, using different amounts of water at critical times of their growth cycle, and improving soil conditions with organic manure.

The system is more labour-intensive but has generated extraordinary results. SRI has been encouraged by some development groups and state governments because it has consistently produced higher average yields than conventional rice farming. It needs fewer seeds, and less water and chemical fertiliser.

Proponents of SRI claim its use increases yield, saves water, reduces production costs, and increases income and that benefits have been achieved in 40 countries.

Some critics have suggested that SRI success is unique to soil conditions and can not be practiced everywhere. Some argue that the yields under SRI have been exaggerated.

Note: This article is contributed by our facebook group (Papertyari) member Kaushal Kishore Sharma.

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