Plant and Soil

, Volume 393, Issue 1–2, pp 361–381 | Cite as

A review of the system of rice intensification in China

  • Wei Wu
  • Baoluo Ma
  • Norman Uphoff
Review Article



Continually increasing food demand from a still–growing human population and the need for environmentally–friendly strategies for sustainable agricultural development require innovation and further enhancement of cropping systems’ factor productivity. The system of rice intensification (SRI) has been proposed as a suitable strategy to improve rice yields with reduced input requirements, most notably water and seed, while enhancing soil and water quality because agrochemical applications can be cut back.

Scope and conclusions

This review examines the performance of SRI methods in China since first introduced in 1999 and considers their implications for further agricultural systems development. A meta–analysis of studies conducted over the past decade in China indicates that SRI methods have been increasing rice yield in comparison trials with current improved practices by more than 10 %. These higher yields are being attained with reduced field requirements for irrigation water and with much–reduced seed rates. This can lower farmers’ costs of production and enhance their net income from rice. Such benefits are accompanied by other advantages reported by various researchers in China and elsewhere, such as greater disease resistance, higher nitrogen use efficiency, enhanced photosynthetic rates, and improved physiological traits.

With appropriate modifications for local conditions, there is increasing evidence that SRI principles and practices can offer an environment–friendly strategy for sustainable agriculture in China and elsewhere. This review considers Chinese and other research on opportunities for improving agricultural production and food security with less strain on environmental resources, and for helping farmers cope with increasing climatic stresses now and in the future.


Climatic change Crop production Food security Low–input production Rice Sustainable agricultural intensification 



This is the joint contribution between Northwest A&F University and Agriculture and Agri–Food Canada. AAFC–ECORC contribution No. 15–020. We thank Shan Huang for providing valuable suggestions on data analysis.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 31401348).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright as represented by Marc Savard 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of AgronomyNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research CentreAgriculture and Agri–Food CanadaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.SRI International Network and Resources Center (SRI–Rice)Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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