SRI-UPDATE #3 2006

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From: Norman Uphoff <>
Subject: SRI-UPDATE-L #3 (January 2006)

. AP State Government backing for SRI in India
2. SRI advantages documented in in eastern Indonesia
3. Political support for SRI dissemination in Cambodia
4. Expansion of SRI efforts in Vietnam
5. Farmer extrapolation of SRI to cotton production
6. Book on trophobiosis offers possible explanations for SRI plants' resistance to pest and disease damage
7. Research on endophytes in rice demonstrates beneficial symbiotic effects of plant-microbial interaction
8. WWF conference on water-saving in Philippines



Based on four seasons of positive results with SRI methods, showing a yield advantage of >2 t/ha with reduced water application and lower costs of production, the Department of Irrigation in Andhra Pradesh state undertook to extend SRI methods to 100,000 ha of paddy land in the 2005 kharif (rainy) season. Reports are coming in and will be posted on the SRI web page when consolidated.

During the 2005 season, as part of an international project, 'Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment,' the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sponsored detailed evaluations of SRI in 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh. This study was supervised by the state agricultural university (ANGRAU). These results are being summarized in a report that will be presented at an international meeting in March (item #8).

The information available on SRI from ANGRAU, the Department of Irrigation, and the WWF evaluation satisfied the Chief Minister of the Andhra Pradesh government Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy that wider use of SRI methods will greatly benefit farmers and the state. In a field visit arranged by WWF, Dr. Reddy pledged 4 crore rupees to bring SRI to "every village" in the state before next kharif season (The Hindu, November 16, 2005). A related article is noted in a November 15, 2005, article.

We have visited several SRI websites in India that indicate strong grassroots support for SRI dissemination: the SRI page of WASSAN (the Watershed Support Services and Activities Network) ( and the SRI section of JalaSpandana (South India Farmers' Organisation for Water Management).


The leader for the Nippon Koei consultant team that is implementing the Decentralized Irrigation System Improvement Project (JIBC ODA loan IP-509) in eastern Indonesia, Shuichi Sato, presented a paper last July at a workshop in Jakarta on 'Three Years of Experience of SRI Practice under DISIMP.' His project has undertaken on-farm evaluations since 2003 in wet and dry seasons at 11 locations in two provinces, South Sulawesi and West Nusa Tenggara, involving 414 farmers doing comparison trials on 361.86 hectares.

Average SRI yields were documented to be 93% higherIndonesia SRI rice those on control non-SRI plots (9.5 t/ha vs. 4.93 t/ha). Saving in irrigation water was calculated to be 40%, while farmers' costs of production were decreased by 20%. This reduction would enhance profitability and incomes per hectare by more than 93%. Sato's report is available at SRI website's Indonesia section along with a picture (above right; click on to enlarge) of the more-productive SRI phenotypes compared to 'normal' rice.


The Cambodia government has begun actively promoting SRI, including it in its National Development Plan for 2006-2010, after 5 years of demonstrations on farmers' fields initiated by NGO partner CEDAC. SRI fits well into the government's strategy for agricultural development which emphasizes both intensification and diversification, with greater use of compost for soil fertility plus fish culture to complement crop production. Some SRI farmers are already reducing their rice area, given large increases in their rice yield, with some of their land freed up by SRI productivity being devoted to construction of fish ponds.

In January, to popularize SRI, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Environment started giving awards to farmers who achieve the highest yields with SRI methods -- TV sets, bicycles, transistor radios. The winner in Ro Veang commune had an average SRI yield of 14.6 t/ha. Most winning yields in other communes were around 10 t/ha, about five times the national average. The Minister of Agriculture has produced an illustrated SRI manual that was printed with private contributions and is being distributed to farmers.

The SRI Secretariat in the Ministry of Agriculture reports that at least 40,000 farmers used SRI methods in Cambodia last year, and possibly as many as 50,000. Five years ago, SRI started with just 28 farmers. Details on these observations are available in a trip report from Norman Uphoff's January 13-20 visit to Cambodia. There is also a report on a day-long national SRI farmers' workshop.


SRI evaluation started in Vietnam in 2003, and good results should accelerate its use in this important rice-producing country. The National IPM Program, based in the Ministry of Agriculture and receiving DANIDA support, has been introducing SRI through its farmer-field-school structure. One active FFS group using SRI is in Dong Tru commune, northeast of Hanoi. While its SRI yields have not increased greatly, 21% compared with current best practices, its costs of production have been reduced by 24%. The combined effect of these two changes is to raise farmers' net income per hectare by 65%, with an estimated reduction in water use of about 60%. Details on cost of production and other effects are given in the National IPM Program section of a trip report from January 3-12 by Norman Uphoff.

Dr. Hoang Van Phu at Thai Nguyen University, two hours north of Hanoi, has been doing trials at the university since spring 2004 and in the field at Bac Giang since spring 2005. (Phu learned about SRI from SRI colleague Klaus Prinz while doing a Masters degree in agronomy at Chiangmai University in Thailand, before doing a PhD at the University of Philippines, Los Banos, advised by Dr. Pamela Fernandez, another SRI colleague.) Phu's replicated factorial trials have given an SRI yield of 8.8 t/ha at 33x33cm spacing and 8.74 t/ha at 40x40 cm spacing (8-day single seedlings were used with SRI water management). More details can be read in the Thai Nguyen University section of the Vietnam trip report. Dr. Phu's articles and manual in Vietnamese will soon be available on our SRI Vietnam page (

An NGO formerly known as CIDSE, now named LUA, which has been working with the IPM program in some of the poorer rural areas, is ready to begin working with SRI. Researchers at the National Institute of Soils and Fertilizers are also interested in SRI. The head of the National IPM program, Ngo Tien Dung, has suggested that organizations and individuals interested in SRI in Vietnam convene a meeting later this spring.


Gopal Swaminathan in Tamil Nadu state of India, who has already contributed the Kadiramangalam adaptation of SRI and a four-row weeder 4 row weeder(at right; click on picture to enlarge) to the adaptation of SRI to various conditions, has begun experimenting with extensions of SRI concepts to growing cotton. This is interesting partly because cotton is not a member of the gramineae family of plants. He uses 1 kg of seed per acre, planting seeds individually in paper cups, and he waters them lightly with a watering can for 10 days.

When the seedlings are 10 days old, he removes the bottom of the paper cup and transplants them into the field at spacing of 2 feet by 4 feet, very sparse. Gopal finds that less watering is needed, and there is accordingly less weed competition. His yield is 20% higher, with earlier yield and lower costs. He will continue trying to optimize these practices and is doing similar experiments with vegetables. He is also designing an implement for cultivating rice-fallow pulses. His email address is:


It has been widely reported by farmers, and often documented by researchers, that SRI rice plants are more resistant to pests and diseases. One mechanism could be the greater uptake of silicon when rice soils are more aerobic, making for stronger stalks and tougher leaves. But the general effect of better plant health remains to be explained.

A book by Francis Chaboussou, published in 1985 and only recently translated from French into English, HEALTHY CROPS: A NEW AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION? (Jon Carpenter Publishers, Charnley, UK, 2004), warrants serious consideration by SRI colleagues, and detailed investigation with SRI vs. typical rice plants by researchers who work on plant nutrition and on the control of pests and diseases.

The author was a long-time researcher in plant pathology at the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) in France before his death in 1985, shortly after publishing his 'magnum opus,' summarizing a lifetime of reading, thinking and experimentation. Based on his own research and on a long bibliography (about 500 references, most from eminent peer-reviewed journals), Chaboussou proposed a theory he calls 'trophobiosis' which seeks to account for crop damage due to insects, bacteria, fungi and even viruses.

Chaboussou maintains that infestations and infections of all kinds are attributable mostly to imbalances or deficiencies in plant nutrition. Application to the soil of chemical fertilizers (esp. nitrogenous ones) and of chemical pesticides to plants (esp. ones based on chlorine) adversely affect plants' metabolism, he maintains, so that (a) the amino acids produced by plants do not get quickly and fully incorporated into proteins, and (b) simple (reducing) sugars do not get quickly and fully transformed into polysaccharides.

Because proteins and polysaccharides are more complex molecules and more difficult for pathogens to access and utilize, the latter prefer to infest/infect plants or tissues that have more amino acids and more simple sugars available in vascular tissues and cells. As a result any excess or abundance of amino acids and simple sugars in plants' sap and cytoplasm makes them more attractive to insect pests and to bacteria, fungi and viruses. Chaboussou cites extensive literature that shows strong correlations between such biochemical excesses or imbalances and plants' infection or infestation.

This encompassing theory could have far-reaching implications for agricultural practice, far beyond SRI. Its predictions fit well with the results that we have seen with SRI. It would explain why insects, for example, are most attracted to young growing shoots, or why rice plants that receive heavy N fertilization are subject to greater pest attacks.

Because this theory has been overlooked or ignored for 20 years, it has not had the scrutiny and testing that any new theory should have before being accepted and promulgated. Because of its apparent relevance to SRI, colleagues are encouraged to get hold of it and to read it, beginning whatever testing and evaluation are possible.

The book is available from for $19.95 plus handling and shipping. Members of the SRI network with expertise in plant physiology and nutrition and in microbiology and entomology are particularly encouraged to get and read this book critically, sharing their assessment with others. If the claims of Chaboussou hold up to scrutiny and testing, they could become very important for improving agricultural practices with rice and other crops.


A recent article on Ascending migration of endophytic rhizobia, from roots to leaves, inside rice plants, and assessment of benefits to rice growth physiology, by C. Feng, S-H. Shen, H-P. Cheng, Y-X Jing, Y.G. Yanni, and F.B. Dazzo, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2005, Vol. 71, pp. 7271-7278) should be of interest to everyone working with SRI.

The authors' research shows how rhizobial bacteria after colonizing the roots of rice (and other cereals) ascend into the stem base, leaf sheath and leaves, with measured effects of:

Also associated with greater endophytic rhizobial 'infections' in rice plants are higher accumulations of indoleacetic acid and gibberellin in plant tissues. These biochemical compounds are phytohormones that regulate and promote plant growth.

The abstract states: 'Considered collectively, the results indicate that this endophytic plant-bacterium association is far more inclusive, invasive and dynamic than previously thought, including dissemination in both below-ground and above-ground tissues and enhancement of growth physiology by several rhizobial species.' [see abstract at: We cannot provide the full article here due to copyright restrictions.] Getting and reading the article should be worth the effort for many Update subscribers, giving new insights on rice production.

We have for several years suspected that symbiotic/synergistic plant-microbial interactions are responsible at least in part for 'the SRI effect.' Prof. Robert Randriamiharisoa at the University of Antananarivo, doing research on this with one of his students, Andry Andriankaja, found a strong association between levels of endophytic Azospirillum in rice plant roots and SRI tillering and yield in replicated trials. A single set of trials like this could not be conclusive, but it pointed to the kind of findings that Feng and his colleagues have now published based on very advanced methods of analysis.


Having supported a systematic evaluation of SRI practices and results in Andhra Pradesh, India, supervised by our SRI colleague Dr. A. Satyanarayana before his retirement as Director of Extension at the AP state agricultural university, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is interested in getting more institutions and agencies, national and international, considering SRI along with other water-saving methods and strategies so that the irrigated rice sector will become more compatible with thriving and sustainable natural ecosystems.

Given its concern with how to reduce agricultural demands for freshwater, which impinge on the sustainability of aquatic and other ecosystems, WWF is organizing an international workshop on 'farm-based methods to reduce water consumption in rice production.' This will be held March 7-8 at Los Banos, hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in cooperation with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Research and Development (PCAARD) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

Irrigated rice is the agricultural sector's largest single source of demand for freshwater resources. WWF's evaluation of SRI in Andhra Pradesh will be reported at that time, along with other reports on SRI (e.g., #2 above) and several other methodologies for reducing irrigated rice's 'footprint' on natural ecosystems. SRI colleagues will be informed of how these materials can be accessed and consulted after the workshop.

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