This paper from the gatekeeper series of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) describes the potential of an innovative rice cultivation practice-the system of rice intensification (SRI)—for allowing Indian rice farmers to not only enhance rice production and their net incomes, but also to solve the water crisis.
Discovered through an unconventional agricultural development initiative in Madagascar in the 1920s, SRI is now known to rice farmers in 40 countries. SRI is a whole package of agronomic approaches which together exploit the genetic potential of rice plants; create a better growing environment (both above and below ground); enhance soil health; and reduce inputs (seeds, water, labour).
Use of roller marker on raised bed, Photo: T M Thiyagarajan
The authors make recommendations for how SRI can be more widely adopted in India, including setting a nationwide policy to adopt SRI on at least 25 per cent of the irrigated rice area in the next five years. This will need to be accompanied by appropriate funding, capacity-building and research back-up. It will also require close collaboration among the state agricultural departments, agricultural universities, public works departments and civil society organisations.
A national focus on SRI will be important as India often faces water and food scarcity due to the failure of the south west monsoon, the main source of water for agriculture in most of the country.
Large panicles with more than 300 grains per panicle, Photo: T M Thiyagarajan
The paper makes the following policy suggestions:
- The Union Government should set a policy to adopt SRI nationwide. The goal should be to cover at least 25 per cent of the irrigated rice area in the next five years. This needs to be supported by the allocation of exclusive funds.
- Establish a systematic strategy for effective implementation, large scale capacity building and research backup. This should involve close collaboration among the state agricultural departments, agricultural universities, public works departments, and civil society organisations.
- Give financial support to research on improving management practices, tools and economic evaluation at farm level.
- Promote direct seeding with a drum seeder and machine planting (with suitable modifications) where labour scarcity limits SRI adoption.
- Provide farmers with subsidies for adopting SRI and incentives for saving water.
The principles of SRI are already being applied to other crops like wheat, sugarcane, finger millet, etc. When the concepts are fully adopted, the impact of ‘more crop with less water’ will have a lasting effect on our resource base. The impact of SRI is already visible in farms but there is a long way to go. A firm national strategy is now urgently needed.
Download the paper here -