Growing rice with SRI

A new method of growing rice is now spreading in many rice-producing countries. It is called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). The method was initially developed in Madagascar by a Jesuit agriculturist, Fr. Henri de Laulanie and continues to be refined by thousands of researchers and farmers all over the world.

In the Philippines, the promotion of SRI is being undertaken by SRI-Pilipinas, a consorium of NGOs which I coordinate. We have already conducted one-day trainings in at least 47 provinces in the Philippines. Now, we want to do trainings in every rice-producing municipality in the country. We need at least P10,000 (around $200) per one-day training, and hope to gather donations from Filipinos abroad who may want to sponsor a training in their municipality. If you are interested in donating, please contact me privately (rverzola@gn.apc.org).

SRI involves a few simple but major changes in farmers’ methods. Not expensive, but challenging because it involves a major change in mindset.

  • Farmers are used to transplanting 3-week old rice seedlings or older. Under SRI, 8- to 12-day old seedlings are transplanted.
  • Farmers are used to flooding their fields. Under SRI, anything longer than a 3-day flooding is avoided. Wetting the soil, or intermittent flooding and drying, is instead encouraged.
  • Farmers are used to planting distances of 15 cm or closer. Under SRI, planting distances start at 25 cm and may even be greater.
  • Farmers are used to planting a bunch of seedlings per hill. Under SRI, one seedling per hill is encouraged. At most two is allowed.
  • Farmers are used to chemical fertilizers. Under SRI, the use of organic matter is encouraged.
  • Farmers are used to herbicides. Under SRI, a mechanical weeder is used instead, not only to control weeds but also to aerate the soil.

These simple changes in practices result in a very different kind (“phenotype” is the technical term) of rice plant. The plants produce much more tillers — 20 upwards, instead of the usual 5-10 tillers per plant. The tillers produce the grain, and the more tillers, the more grain, the greater the harvest. The loss of yield from wider spacing is more than offset by the bigger gain in yield from the greater number of tillers and the greater number of grains per tiller.

For details, please download this file: System of Rice Intensification: Practices and Results in the Philippines. You can also access the SRI Homepage of the Cornell University.

The benefits are many. The increase in yield, coupled with reduced cost, means greater income for the farmer. The health benefits should not be underestimated. Agricultural chemicals poison the soil, the food that comes from it, the drinking water and the surrounding fields. The environmental benefits are also considerable. Poisons are minimized and can be avoided altogether, giving common farm organisms (like mudfish, snails, crabs, frogs, etc.) a chance to return to the farm. Less flooding means less anaerobic decomposition of organic matter, which means less methane generation and therefore less greenhouse gases. Methane is actually worse than carbon dioxide in its greenhouse effect.

A mindset change among our farmers is bound to generate many positive consequences down the road. To accomplish this, we need a lot of support.

11 Comments

  1. medy lascuna
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    please publish the step by step guide of planting rice such as: from land prep. to harvesting. and how many cavan of rice we can get per hectare by following the guide. thank you
    medy

  2. Posted August 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I wish to experiment with SRI on flat dry land. I need proven rice seeds. Can you provide me with the seeds. I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Thank you.

    Dahalan.

  3. Myrna
    Posted June 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Sir, interesado po ang municipality ng San Agustin, Isabela na sumubok ng organic farming sa palay. Kausap ko po ang Municipal Agriculturist, si Julio Lamug. May ilan brochures na po sila ukol sa SRI. Nakadalaw na rin sila sa model farm sa Alicia, Isabela. Ngunit nangangailangan pa pong mas maraming kaalaman. Meron po bang seminars/workshops na available ang SRI? o di kaya mga brochures at educational materials na pwede ipamudmod sa mga farmers?

    any help po from SRI or allied networks will be appreciated.

    Salamat po!

    Myrna A. Maglahus

  4. Roberto Verzola
    Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    We provide free one-day trainings if the municipality can gather at least 25 people (agric technicians, chairs of agric committees, farmers, etc.) who are interested in trying SRI. We will send the trainer your town, at our expense.

    We expect the local host (the LGU or the MAO) to provide the venue for a half-day lecture, provide lunch to the participants, and to prepare a 100-500 sqm trial plot and 10-day old seedlings, so that the trainer can demonstrate (and the participants can try themselves) the transplanting of 10-day old seedlings.

    We better do this soon, as the rainy season is already starting.

    Greetings,

    Obet Verzola
    Coordinator, SRI Pilipinas

  5. Roberto Verzola
    Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    It is best to use local seeds — the same seeds you will use in other parts of your rice fields, or which your neighbors use, so that you can compare how SRI results differ with other conventional results.

    Roberto Verzola

  6. Roberto Verzola
    Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Please google “SRI Pilipinas primer” (it is in Tagalog), and download/print the PDF files. It contains the step-by-step guide you are looking for.

    Obet Verzola

  7. Lito Salesale
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Obet,

    Do you have Training / Seminar / Workshop in BOHOL? Please post your schedule.

    Thanks and regards,

    Lito

  8. Myrna
    Posted August 18, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Sir Obet,

    Marami pong salamat. Pasensya na at natagalan ang pag-reply dahil sa internet access. Naka-subscribe na po kami sa SRI Pilipinas at nakakatanggap ng regular text. Titingnan po namin ukol sa pag-organize ng training.

    Salamat po.

    Myrna

  9. eddie canuto
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    with the information i got from you, am going to start SRI in my farm in Iloilo.

    Thank you sir and more power

  10. Roberto Verzola
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Sori Lito, masyadong late na yata ang sagot ko. Pero kung interesado ka pa rin, kumontak ka sa Municipal Agriculture Office ng Talibon. Nagtraining kasi kami doon. Pag may sked ulit kami, iinform ka namin. Mas maganda kung kumontak ka by cellphone (63-939-117-8999) dahil ito talaga ang binabantayan ko regularly. Itext mo dito ang full name/address mo, at padadalhan ka namin ng libreng babasahin. Pero dahil may Internet access ka naman, idownload mo na lang yung mga lessons na nasa blog na ito.

  11. Ardena U. Tandoc
    Posted September 27, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    I have read several articles on SRI and I also watched the demo video on SRI. I am very interested to know more about the pros and cons of this method. Do you have a comparative study of the traditional farming and SRI in regards to the cost vs profit? I am in a group here in the USA who are planning to go back to the Philippines and help the farmers elevate there financial capacity and lift them up from poverty. Please furnish me with your data so we could study and prepare a budget for this project.
    I would greatly appreciate any useful information you can share. Thank you and God bless


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