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- SRI Concepts and Methods Applied to Wheat -

System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) is an innovative wheat cultivation technique which modifies traditional practices of inputs and other agronomic practices for favorable growth of both root and shoot, resulting in improved production of wheat. SWI uses basic SRI (System of Rice Intensification) principles which are known as System of Crop Intensification when applied to other crops. SWI is especially favorable for small scale farmers, though it works well for larger-scale farms.

Recent publications, articles, videos and presentations :


The first trials adapting SRI concepts to wheat started in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh states of India, under the leadership of the NGO People’s Science Institute (PSI), based in Dehradun. These were followed by trials and demonstrations in Madhya Pradesh state at the initiative of another NGO, the Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project (MPRLP) and then in other states. The NGO Jeevika has been getting excellent results in Bihar state, with 30,000 farmers there using SWI methods in 2009-2010. (See also videos about SWI from India.) Other important SWI practicing states are Punjab, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh.


Himachal Pradesh/Uttarakhand

The Indian business weekly Outlook Business reported on PSI’s work with rural communities in October 2008, writing that farmers are getting 2-3 times higher yield. In the 2009 season, PSI reported that 151 farmers used SWI methods with irrigation, and 317 farmers used SWI with rainfall only. The first set of farmers increased their grain yield by 87% compared to usual methods, and their straw yield by 90%. The second set of farmers (rainfed) got 91% higher grain yield and 104% higher straw yield. (Straw is very important to these small farmers as a source of fodder for their cattle, raising milk yield.)

With irrigation, farmers raise their SWI  grain yield from 2.8 to 5.0 t/ha, and their straw yield from 3.7 to 7.0 t/ha. Rainfed farmers boosted their grain yield from 1.7 to 3.3 t/ha, and straw yield from 2.2 to 4.4 t/ha. (Note: 2009 was a drought year for many farmers in this region.) With conventional practices, farmers’ net income/ha was Rs. 464 without irrigation, and Rs. 10,475 with irrigation. Using SWI methods, farmers without irrigation had a net income of Rs. 27,581 per hectare from their wheat crop, and with irrigation they netted Rs. 29,915 per hectare. Such profitability makes the prospects for further spread quite likely.  (see PSI 2009 report)

The People’s Science Institute began SWI trials in 2006 with an experiment on 5 ha on a research farm, obtaining a yield of 2.2 t/ha yield, compared to 1.6 t/ha from a control field with conventional methods. This was a 38% increase in yield. Next year, 30 farmers did irrigated SWI and 19 farmers tried unirrigated SWI, respectively getting 4.25 and 2.5 t/ha yields, compared with 2.35 and 1.55 t/ha using conventional methods. These were much higher yield increases, 81% and 61%, respectively.

In 2008, 557 farmers cultivated irrigated SWI and 491 farmers tried unirrigated SWI methods. Their respective yields were 4.8 and 3.2 t/ha, compared to 2.44 and 1.77 t/ha using conventional methods. The respective increases were 97% and 81%. With such yield responses, PSI expects SWI to become quite popular in northern India.

Madhya Pradesh

The Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihood Project in central India started SWI trials and demonstrations in 2008-09, working with tribal households in the center of this state. The first detailed data came from two farmers on what their practices were and what were their results. The first farmer got a yield of 4.14 t/ha compared with 2.35 t/ha using his usual methods, with same climate, on the same soil with the same variety of seed. The second farmer had a SWI yield of 5.2 t/ha, far above the average for the area. More information is given in MPRLP’s  seasonal report, with pictures, which describes what was done. This information has been supplemented with more detail, and pictures, in a PowerPoint presentation from MPRLP. 


Working with the NGO PRADAN which has pioneered SRI work in eastern India, Jeevika (the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project) has made the greatest progress in spreading SRI methods. In 2008, 415 farmers used SWI methods under its supervision. These farmers were able to roughly double their wheat yields with SRI methods, raising wheat yields from 1-2 t/ha to 3-4 t/ha. Bihar’s growing environments are generally less favorable. According to a March 30, 2010, Reuters AlertNet article, 25,000 farmers in Bihar are now trying out SWI since Jeevika introduced the SWI in Bihar's drought-prone Gaya district in 2007. PRADAN has prepared a manual (as a PowerPoint presentation) in Hindi on SWI methodology. It is also now available in English.

Where SWI methods created very good growing conditions through modified soil, water, plant and nutrient management, there were some impressive results. One landless woman farmer who rented in an acre of land attained a SWI yield of 7.96 t/ha in an area where typical wheat yields are 2.9 t/ha. The harvesting and yield calculation for her plot were supervised (and certified) by the head of the Indian Government’s Directorate of Rice Development (DRD) based in Patna, Dr. M. C. Diwakar. A March 29, 2010, article in The Hindu reports on farmer experiences with SWI in Bihar.

The certification of this yield is included in a PPT that Jeevika has prepared on SWI results in the 2008-09 season. Average SWI yields for Purnea, Gaya and Nalanda districts of Bihar were, respectively, 3.2-4.8 t/ha, compared with 1.2-1.6 t/ha using usual methods. The highest yields in the three districts were, respectively,  6.92, 7.92 and 8.4 t/ha, showing how much potential there is for raising wheat yields in Bihar State, especially for poor, resource-limited households. Having had 415 farmers participate in 2008-09 SWI trials/demonstrations, Jeevika is expecting 30,000 farmers to be using SRI methods on about 0.2 acres each in the 2009-10 season.  

Uttar Pradesh

Dr. G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, CWS/Hyderabad, has provided a report on progress with System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) methods in U.P.:

“Last week while on a visit to a few villages in Uttar Pradesh, Raibareilly district, in one of the villages we have seen SWI promoted by Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana. The sowing was done with single seeds at 8 inches square spacing. When we visited, the crop was in the final stages. We counted the number of tillers, panicle length, number of grains in the panicle, etc."

  Seed rate No. of tillers Panicle length Grains per panicle
Normal wheat: broadcast 35 kg/acre 4-5 4-6 cm 25-30
SWI: single seed sowing >  5 kg/acre 25-30 12-15 cm 60-70

The crop is yet to be harvested, so no yield figures can be given. We have also seen a Kudrat variety of wheat which was developed by a farmer called Raghuvamsi from Varanasi. This is an amazing innovation with a panicle more than 15 cm length and 100-120 grains in a single panicle grown with conventional sowing."
- Ramoo


SWI was introduced in Afghanistan after the Aga Khan Foundation program there got SRI started with rice in the northeastern part of the country. In 2011, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) included wheat, the main staple of Afghanistan, within its plant production and protection strategy to improve agricultural sector performance. SWI practices were adapted to local conditions, planting wheat in rows using locally-made rakes that make parallel furrows, followed by drum seeders that drop wheat seeds into the furrows with wide spacing. Subsequently, a rotary weeder, also locally-made, is used to remove weeds and keep the soil well aerated. Water was provided as necessary, usually just 2-3 times during the growing season.

Between 2011 to 2015, 7,450 farmers were trained from across the major wheat-growing provinces of the country using the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach to training. Compared with the conventional cultivation method, which usually mostly involves simple broadcasting method of sowing and without any weeding activity so that weeds become a major constraint on production, SWI provided on average a 42% increase in yield, with an 83% increase in the net return, reflecting substantial reductions in the cost of production. The training methodologies and tools developed by FAO for adapting SWI in Afghanistan are currently being promoted by a number of other projects including the World Bank-funded On-Farm Water Management Project (OFWMP) and the Afghanistan Agriculture Inputs Project (AAIP) which are increasing SWI use under the overall guidance and supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. Case studies in Kasapaj, Balkh Province, and Teemtak, Takhar Province (right), give a good idea of the impact of SWI on the ground.


SRI trials were started in the Timbuktu region in 2007, and the positive results with rice led to an expanded program of trials and demonstrations the next year (see 2007/2008 report). In 2008, some first trials with SWI were initiated, comparing transplanting of young wheat seedlings (with wide spacing, small but regular applications of water, increased organic matter, etc.) with direct-seeding and with controls (traditional broadcasting of seed to establish the crop.

In this area, given the heat and wind of the winter season which cause desiccation in plants, direct extrapolation of SRI methods to wheat in this area, i.e. transplanting young seedlings, produced poorer results than conventional practice. However, a direct-seeded version of SWI gave 13% higher yield, with 30-40% less labor. The productivity of labor with this method (yield per hour of labor input) went up by 75%, and 25-30% less water was required, a major consideration in this water-scarce region. These are major incentives for farmers to change their practices. Details are given in a report from Africare.

Farmers participated in further SWI trials in the 2009-2010 winter season, to compare four different spacings of direct-seeded SWI with trials also of transplanted SWI and with control plots. These results will be posted on this site some time after April 2010.

CHINA: Wheat-Rice Cropping System

Since 2006, the Centre for Agroecology and Farming Systems of the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences has been working with the Institute of Yanjiang Agricultural Sciences in Jiangsu Province on adapting SRI ideas into the wheat-rice rotational cropping system, which is widespread in China and also in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of South Asia. About 22 million hectares of cropland are under this rotational system in these two regions together.

The Centre reports that the first three years of evaluations in Jiangsu Province have given combined wheat and rice yields ranging from 13 to 17 t/ha for the two crops, which usually produce 10 t/ha together. This represents an increase of 30-70%. Further evaluations are continuing. If the soil is not flooded (anaerobic) during the rice cropping season, this creates more favorable soil conditions for the subsequent wheat crop. Also, any shortening of the rice crop cycle, achievable with SRI management is advantageous for the ensuing wheat crop’s yield.



Central Nepal:
Sindhuli district System of Wheat Intensification field experiments were undertaken during 2011- 2012 by the Integrated Crop and Water Management Program (ICWMP) Farmer Field School (FSS) in Sindhuli District (left) in Central Nepal. Trials (4mx1m) were undertaken at 397 masl with the wheat variety Bhirkuti comparing SWI methods with the traditional broadcast as well as in line plantings. The SWI plots were sown at 20x20 cm spacing, hand-weeded and provided with irrigation provided during CRI and tillering stage. In SWI, the tiller numbers and plant height was found higher (25 and 61.4 cm, respectively) compared to the conventional broadcast wheat (2.6 and 57.8 cm) and in line sown wheat (3.4 and 60 cm). Yields converted to t/ha were 6.5 for SWI, 5.0 for in line and 3.7 for broadcast.



Far Western Nepal:
FarWestern Nepal mapThe System of Wheat Intensification, has been evaluated since 2010 in four districts of Far Western Nepal by the NGOs Mercy Corps Nepal and FAYA-Nepal. The 2010 trials, undertaken by farmers in their own fields in the districts of Dadeldhura, Doti, Baitadi and Kailali (see map at left), compared the yield from SWI with yield from traditional practice. The results indicated that the average grain yield increased by 91 to 100 percent with adoption of SWI methods compared to traditional practice. Farmers who participated in the PAR and demonstration trainings were willing to adopt SWI, given that the yield is increased significantly to meet their household level food security. The slideshow at right shows SWI photos from Kailali and Doti districts. A 2013 PowerPoint presentation by Ram B. Khadka about the SWI experience in Kailali, is also available.

Since seed priming, line sowing, gap filling and weeding are some tedious tasks required to perform in SWI, introduction and use of simple tools for seed sowing and weeding are recommended for ensuring wider adoption of SWI in this region. Results have shown that increased yield through complete SWI technique can ensure food availability for extra 6 months for a typical 6-member household with average land holdings. The study concluded that SWI could significantly improve food security of poor, marginal and landless farmers of Far Western Region where wheat is a major food item. For more information, see report.



Maine SWI wheat seedlingsMaine SWI wheat fieldMark Fulford of Monroe, Maine, applied SRI methods in 2009 to experimental wheat plots on his farm in this relatively cold northern climate. See pictures of his SWI wheat seedlings (right) and the vigorous SWI crop in the field (left). Mark reports that wheat plants grown with SRI-like methods had 55-80 tillers per plant before they were ‘found by wildlife.’ Unfortunately there was no harvest, but not because the methods used were unsuccessful. Mark plans to expand his trials in 2010 and will try to protect them better from vertebrate pests. He will also try the methods with hullless barley.




The Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) in Addis Ababa has initiated a number of farmer-participatory evaluations of SRI methods with different crops, including wheat, under its SCI initiative in Tigray Province. Pictures from the 2009-2010 Normal wheat with 39 grainsSWI wheat with 59 grains season comparing SWI wheat (right) with ‘normal’ wheat (left) in the area show much more vigorous growth with SWI methods. ISDsent a picture of anSWI wheat plant with 56 panicles (right) . Reports on the results from these trials will be posted on this site.

Some initial SWI trial plots in Tigray fertilized with compost and harvested in 2009 gave wheat yields ranging from 3 to 10 t/ha. Such yields cannot be extrapolated necessarily to field scale because the plots were very small. However, there is considerable farmer interest in the results seen, according to ISD.

ISD has been working since 1997 with farmers in Tigray Province, who have been evaluating the growing of their various rainfed grain crops applying compost made from any and all available biomass, compared to crop performance with chemical fertilizer. Over seven seasons, yields with compost have surpassed those with inorganic fertilizer by 30% on average. 

In 2018, an article by Abate et al in Agricultural Economics references SWI-inspired trials with positive results in Ethiopia.










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