SRI System of Rice Intensification
My journey of experiments with nature started seriously 2 years back, Due to my childhood aquantice with paddy cultivation, used to be curious to understand global processes and methodologies around this cultivation to do better and to help my local community benefit.
Rice being staple diet for majority of Asia, its importance is well engraved in every culture, every custom of rural India. Needless to say the importance of Rice in providing food security to millions, underlining the importance on the economic front still Indian Finance minister prays for good rains to control inflation every year. With the ever increase in population demand is always on the rise, where as the supply is stunted in growth due to lots of challenges like non availability of Labour due to urban migration, high input cultivation costs (Chemical fertilizers, Seeds, Pesticides), year on year decreasing yield levels etc.
I don’t really know how others perceive this but I would see this as an alarming state, certain and immediate danger which needs to be addressed on urgent basis. The need of the hour is to improve the cultivation methodology, increase the yields with no additional costs, help restore the faith of farmer in agriculture.
I as a weekend farmer dedicate my weekends in this initiative and sincerely believe in contributing back to society. In my present Endeavour, embarked on this journey to find better rice cultivation practice which can be adopted to address these current challenges. One day browsing through the internet stumbled upon the research findings of an international NGO on rice cultivation called SRI (System of Rice Intensification) claiming to increase the rice yields from 30-300 %. Initially I was skeptical on the information, but more and more I read about it from other sources and thought over it, more logical I felt and convinced I became on its principles. The best part of the methodology is, it is flexible to implementation based on the local conditions. So it doesn’t say follow the recipe and will get these results, it says follow the principles for better results. According to me SRI recommend guiding principles for cultivation methodology, which can be adapted to many crops with implementation process variations.
SRI Fundamental Principles
1. Utilize early vigor of young seedlings.
Optimum care and nutrition has to be provided at the early start. it goes with a Kannada wise old saying says "Belayuva siri yanu, molake yelle nodabohudu" translation says harvest can be seen in the germinated seed. As initial post germination phase of few days are important for the plant to establish itself, maximum nutrition or care should be given. Hence implement better nursery techniques to grow healthy seedlings and plant them in the fields in the early stage. That is between 8-12 days in nursery.
2. Reduce competition from light and nutrients.
Give adequate spacing between the plants to allow healthy growth. Have a minimum spacing of 25 cms x 25 cms between the plants.
3. Leave them alone, Reduce external inputs.
Allow the plant to establish itself and grow to its potential naturally, Help them when it is needed only. Restrict the unnecessary application of chemical fertilizer and pesticides.
Only weeding has to be done regularly.
4. Keep soil from becoming anoxic (without oxygen).
Do not flood the fields and pool the water, its totally a misconception among farmers that paddy are aquatic plants, in fact they are resistant to flooding or water logging. but they dont prefer it. By water logging air doesn't reach the roots and it can decay decreasing the output. Drain the fields only water once in a week allow the air to penetrate the soil. This will greatly help in term s of reducing your fertilization cost.
5. Promote Healthy root growth.
By regular weeding on the fields with the mechanical weeders (spiked rollers) they will uproot the unwanted weeds in between the plants and also will aerate the soil for better root propagation. This has to be done every 15 days.
6. Increase soil microbial activity by enhancing Soil Organic matter.
Use plenty of organic material to fertilize your soil, they in turn will promote the growth of microbial activity and in turn help you with breaking down the constituents of the air into growth promoters.
Pictorial Representation of the SRI Principles
Probably after reading through the principles you must have thought it to be more of common sense, probably you might have already realized this in your kitchen garden or in your balcony flower pots. Yes!! SRI fundamental principles are more like common sense; probably our previous generations adopted this and with time, lost the technique?
Anyways I am glad we are able to rediscover the technique, To prove the point, I planned to experiment on my farm last monsoon, after much persuasion got a land of 15 guntas to try this out and documenting my observations and results here.
- Care to be taken while transplanting as seedlings are very young, root damages has to be minimized to reduce establishment time. Use of mechanical transplantors can be very beneficial.
- Working with the manual weeder can be quite an effort to cover an acre; person has to walk with the weeder in the paddy field for approximately 15-17 Kms!!. Use of power weeders can help to a certain extent.
- For the initial period, Be prepared for pest control with any organic solutions before in hand to ensure no loss of productivity. Use of native seeds may help prevent from certain pests and do regular crop rotations to break the pest life cycle.
- Be prepared for an early harvest of at least 10 days. Grain maturity will be early comparatively.
- Crops will be very receptive to Vermin wash regular foliar sprays; this will enable constant supply of micro nutrients to the plants.
No of Tillers per Hill
No of productive Tillers per Hill
Average Grains per Pinnacle
Yield per Gunta
Yield per Acre
175% higher yield in SRI was observed, still felt if we had done another round of weeding and enough organic soil fertilization was adequately done during land preparation stage then easily we could have reached 80Kgs per Gunta, anyways there is always something to improvise for the next season.
On a whole experience was exciting, except the first 15 days after transplanting you need to hold your nerves as you will see the transplanted place almost next to being empty and sure will be facing peak of your critics. But after the period once plant progresses with the polycorn stages, no of tillers will start multiplying every 8-12 days and soon the growth will be visible and exponential.
Summarizing this article I feel SRI principles has lots of potential to explore and it’s a boon to Paddy farmers to earn more by growing more.