Congratulations on doing an EDN onSRI. I have a feeling that this technology will become the basis for a veritable revolution in rice growing in Asia. I also suspect that you will look back someday on this issue of EDN as having been one of the ones that had the most impact among all those you’ve written.
Once again, hats off.
J.B. Hoover, Asian Rural Institute, Japan
Congratulations on a most interesting issue (#70)! I was fascinated by SRI and especially pleased that you decided to devote most of the issue to this topic. In our training institute we grow all the rice we consume, and we use our own labor for transplanting, weeding, etc. Also we use only organic methods of fertilization and protecting against insects. However, growing enough rice has become more and more difficult as “development” in our area has led to the paddy land we once leased from other farmers being turned into apartment buildings. I certainly plan to dedicate part of our on-campus paddy to this method this year.
Thank you again for your excellent work. From our perspective here at ARI, this is the kind of scientific research that we feel really makes a positive difference in the lives of the people our participants (trainees) serve.
Mr. J. B. Hoover of the Asian Rural Institute in Japan wrote to us with a few questions about SRI. To answer his questions, we contacted Norman Uphoff from Cornell University. His colleague Erick Fernandez (who has done a lot of work in Madagascar where SRI was developed) also responded. Here are the questions and their responses:
1) Has SRI been tried in temperate monsoon climates like Japan? If so, is there any documentation?
NORMAN UPHOFF: I don’t know of any application of the SRI set of practices in temperate monsoon climates, but since SRI is not a technology but a set of principles to be adapted to local conditions, there is no reason why it should not work under those circumstances. We do know from Madagascar that yields are higher in the higher elevations with cooler climates. The problem with a monsoon climate may be that it is hard to keep the soil well drained during the height of the monsoon, though this may be done by growing the rice on raised beds, as is now being done increasingly with wheat, to reduce irrigation requirements (furrow rather than flood irrigation) and raise yields. For best SRI results, indeed for ANY SRI results when there is continuous flooding under monsoon conditions, the soil needs to be kept at least intermittently well drained.
ERICK FERNANDEZ: As Dr. Uphoff points out, SRI should apply across the range of rice-growing sites (tropical to sub-tropical/temperate). We should not, however, be too surprised to find that SRI is better for some climates versus others. There are still many unknowns about the interactions and synergies.
2) As to the weeding “problem” raised in the article, we at ARI, like many organic Japanese farmers, use Aigamo ducks in the field. Using Aigamo has virtually eliminated the need to weed the paddy, and they rid the paddy of most harmful insects. However, we have used Aigamo in conjunction with typical flooded fields. Do you have access to any documentation about using Aigamo or other flightless ducks as part of the SRI system?
DR. UPHOFF: No experience or documentation. We have found, however, that pests (and diseases) are less with SRI compared to other cultural practices, so maybe the ducks would not be as well-fed with SRI? That is a nice thought.
DR. FERNANDEZ: Ducks are common in the rice systems in Madagascar. Although SRI seems to reduce rice pests, nothing is known about the impact on other beneficial insects and aquatic fauna/flora that make up a large part of the ‘a la carte’ duck menu! Another point to consider: by paddling around and 'dibbling’ around the rhizosphere, ducks help aerate the root zone.
(Mr. Hoover wrote to us with more information about Aigamo ducks. Aigamos are a crossbreed of wild and domestic ducks. Mr. Hoover says the ducks do not touch the rice leaves but must be removed from fields just before rice plants head. Fences or nets are kept around the fields to prevent wild animals from reaching the ducks and to keep the ducks within the rice fields. Ducks are given a small amount of crushed rice in the morning to supplement their diet of weeds, weed seeds and insects. 15 –30 ducks are used per 10 acres. We do not know of any studies that have been done using Aigamo ducks along with the SRI methodology.)
Bunch, R. 2001. Enthusiasm for SRI (System of Rice Intensification). ECHO Development Notes no. 71