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Opportunities for water saving with higher yield from the system of rice intensification

Abstract

The system of rice intensification (SRI) developed in Madagascar, is showing that by changing the management of rice plants, soil, water and nutrients it can increase the yields of irrigated rice by 25–50% or more while reducing water requirements by an equivalent percent. This gives farmers incentive to reduce their irrigation water use when growing rice, especially since SRI methods can also reduce farmers’ costs of production which increases their net income ha−1 by even more than yield. Even though these results sound fantastic, the validity of SRI concepts and practices has been demonstrated in more than 20 countries to date. This article considers, first, the methods that make these improvements possible and how these are achieved. It then briefly surveys SRI experience in five Asian countries, incentives in addition to yield, water-saving and profitability for adopting SRI, and possible limitations or disadvantages with the methodology. Next, it comments on the debate over SRI in the agronomic literature and then adds to the empirical record by reporting in some detail on SRI evaluations in two of India’s main rice-growing states, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where water availability is becoming more problematic and where SRI use is spreading. Finally, the article briefly discusses some implications of saving irrigation water by changing resource management rather than by using on more or different inputs.

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Notes

  1. In Cambodia, where at least 40,000 farmers were using SRI methods in 2005, compared with just 28 in 2000, a survey of 120 farmers who had used SRI for three years found that compost use had gone up, on average, from 942 kg ha−1 to 2.1 tons ha−1, with a doubling of yield, while chemical fertilizer use had fallen from 116 to 67 kg ha−1, and use of chemical pesticides went from 35 to 7 kg ha−1. Farmers’ cost of production had declined from 231,000 riels ha−1 before SRI to 113,140 riels ha−1 with SRI (Tech 2004). GTZ’s evaluation of SRI in Cambodia documented a $23 ha−1 reduction in costs of production, which together with $66 more income ha−1 from higher yield raised farmers’ net profit ha−1 to $209 ha−1, compared to $120 ha−1 with standard methods (Anthofer et al. 2004).

  2. The IWMI evaluation in Sri Lanka showed that, given SRI’s higher yield and lower costs of production, rice farmers using the new methods were > 7 times less likely than conventional farmers to experience a net economic loss in any particular season (Namara et al. 2004: Table 15). The GTZ evaluation of Cambodian farmers’ experience with SRI, assessing their risk of falling short of some target net income, concluded that for a $100 ha−1 objective, an SRI farmer had a 17% risk of falling short, whereas it was 41% for a conventional farmer.

  3. Andhra Pradesh millers have estimated that their outturn with SRI goes up from ∼67 to ∼75%, justifying payments to farmers of 10% more bushel-1 for SRI paddy. This is also reported from the Mahaweli System ‘H’ in Sri Lanka (U. G. Abeygunawardena, Ministry of Agriculture, personal communication) The first sugar cooperative in Cuba to take up SRI (CPA Camilo Cienfuegos, Bahia Honda) has seen its milling rate with SRI paddy go up by ∼15%, from 60 to 68–71% (personal communication, July 2004). In China, the milling rate with SRI paddy has been measured to be 16.1% above that of conventionally-grown rice of the same variety, and head milled rice was 17.5% higher (Jun 2004).

  4. In 2004, farmers in Morang district, Nepal, harvested their SRI crop on average 15.1 days sooner with 114% higher yield (7.85 vs. 3.37 tons ha−1); in 2005, with less favorable growing conditions, farmers planting the same variety (Bansdhan) reduced their time to harvest on average by 19.5 days, with 91% higher yield (5.51 vs. 2.88 tons ha−1). Data provided by the Morang District Agricultural Extension Office, Biratnagar, Nepal. More rapid maturity of SRI crops has been reported also from Cambodia, China, India and Sri Lanka.

  5. An evaluation done of 108 farmers in Madagascar who were using both SRI and conventional methods documented that while first-year users required more labor ha−1, by the fourth year, SRI users needed 4% less labor, and by the fifth year, 10% less (Barrett et al. 2004). Other studies have shown a faster reduction in SRI labor requirements. A study of SRI methods adapted for rainfed rice production in West Bengal, conducted by IWMI’s India program, found both greater yield and net income from SRI being accompanied by an 8% reduction in labor requirements ha−1 (Singh and Talati 2005). A similar reduction is reported from Tamil Nadu state below.

  6. This research is summarized in a forthcoming book published by the China National Rice Research Institute (Zhu et al. 2006).

  7. In Bangladesh, 2 years of on-farm evaluations (N = 1,093) supervised by two NGOs (BRAC and SAFE), the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, and Syngenta Bangladesh Ltd., with funding from the IRRI program there, likewise showed SRI benefits. Five of the six sets of trials showed increases in yield of 6–50% and in net farmer income of 4–82% (Husain 2004). Reductions in water use were reported from most of the trials, although the studies did not measure amounts. The only negative results (Latif et al. 2005) were based on < 2% of the on-farm trials.

  8. Pertinent agronomic information: sandy clay loam soil; pH 8.2; EC 0.35 dSm−1; organic carbon 8.7 g kg−1; CEC 37.5 c mol (p+) kg−1; mineralization N 160 kg ha−1; Olsen P 15.5 kg ha−1; NH4OAcK 220 kg ha−1.

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Satyanarayana, A., Thiyagarajan, T.M. & Uphoff, N. Opportunities for water saving with higher yield from the system of rice intensification. Irrig Sci 25, 99–115 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00271-006-0038-8

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Keywords

  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Tamil Nadu
  • International Water Management Institute
  • China National Rice Research Institute
  • Irrigate Rice Production