SRI-UPDATE #6 - August 2006

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From: Norman Uphoff
Subject: SRI-UPDATE-L #6 (August 2006)

Dear SRI-Update-L subscriber,

This is the sixth in the SRI UPDATE series that is being sent out in alternate months. Enhanced versions of these e-updates and archives are available on the SRI website. This url also contains information on subscriptions for other SRI groups in other countries.

The numbered listing of sections below provides an overview of the contents of this Update, to let you know what items are included. To subscribe to the interactive SRI discussion list, instead of this announcement-only list, see

-Norman Uphoff
for CIIFAD SRI Group

1. Zambia becomes 24th country where SRI effect is demonstrated
2. Preliminary SRI trials underway in Burkina Faso
3. SRI trials in Iran
4. Indian consultation on SRI
5. Pakistan initiative for establishing initiative for a centre on SRI
6. International meetings
7. Follow-up on silicon in rice



The Esek Farmers' Cooperative Society in Solwezi, Northwest Province, hosted on June 30 a National SRI Launch that coincided with the first SRI harvest. Over 300 persons were present -- farmers, officials, agriculturalists, NGO workers, and others, many travelling hundreds of kilometers. The invited Chief Guest, Mr. Salivaji, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, came 500 km from Kabwe to attend and preside (-see slide presentation).

The SRI demonstration plot, 12.5 x 12.5 meters, yielded 96 kg of dried paddy. This represented a yield of 6.144 t/ha in a region where local rice yields are usually around 1 t/ha, given poor soils and lack of irrigation facilities. A local variety, known as Super, was used, with 6-month maturation. 15-day seedlings were transplanted singly at 25x25 cm spacing. No fertilizer was used, just compost made from decomposed biomass applied six weeks after field preparation.

Weeding during the season was done by hand. However, during the launch ceremony, a rotary hoe weeder shipped from Madagascar by Glenn Lines was presented and demonstrated, with technical drawings provided to facilitate local manufacture. Also a gift of $5,000 to accelerate the spread of SRI in Zambia, sent by David Galloway, Vancouver, Canada, was presented to the Farmers' Cooperative Society and its chief technical advisor Henry Ngimbu. Progress on SRI in Zambia will be posted periodically on the SRI Zambia page.

Presently, food insecurity is common in the Northwest Province, and the World Food Programme and other agencies from time to time are importing rice from Asia to help feed the hungry population. This SRI crop relied primarily upon rainfall, although members of the farmers' society had constructed a small catchment dam to provide some supplementary irrigation at low cost. That this yield was not dependent upon purchased external inputs opens new possibilities for reducing hunger and poverty in the region. The Farmers' Cooperative and Henry Ngimbu have already begun working with other farmer groups in Zambia to spread SRI knowledge.


Timothy J.  Krupnik, agroecology PhD student in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of California-Santa Cruz, reports that SRI trials are being carried out during this rainy season in Burkina Faso, West Africa, with 6 volunteer SRI farmers matched with 6 neighboring farmers using conventional methods. Details on the comparative trials are given on a new Burkina Faso web page.

In addition to measuring yield and yield components, the study will examine the potential for SRI water management practices to reduce soil iron toxicity, a common problem in tropical African soils; SRI impact on major rice pest populations; the dynamics of weed populations; and comparative economic costs and benefits. More detailed work is expected to continue during the 2007-2008 cropping season comparing SRI, farmers' practices, and best management practices, guided by assessments of this year's results and by farmers' interests and ideas for adapting SRI practices to better fit their farming systems. Contact information for Tim Krupnik is given on the Burkina Faso web page (address above).

Bahman Amiri Larijani, head of the agronomy section in Iran's Rice Training Center, has reported that SRI research, which started last year on a 2 ha paddy field near the Caspian Sea, is continuing this year with field experimental plots and demonstration fields. Pictures of the plots have been posted on the new Iran web page. The variables being evaluated this year are plant density (ranging from 25 to 40 cm) and fertilization (chicken manure, chemical fertilization, and without fertilization), using both a traditional variety and a modern variety. Results will be posted on the Iran page when reported

Farmers and officials in Northwest Province and guests of honor from Lusaka have been invited. A private gift of $5,000 has been sent by an SRI supporter in Canada to help expand SRI efforts in the region, where the World Food Programme is currently importing rice to meet acute food shortages. Glenn Lines in Madagascar has sent a rotary-hoe prototype for demonstration also.

This SRI is also a rainfed version because there are few irrigation facilities in this region, with acute food shortfalls. There is good annual rainfall, 1000-1400mm, but it is highly seasonal and erratic. Rice yields now range from 0.1-1.0 t/ha, so there is much scope for SRI improvements.

On June 30, the Andhra Pradesh state agricultural university (ANGRAU) in Hyderabad hosted an all-day meeting on SRI, attended by 50 SRI farmer-practitioners who discussed with researchers, NGOs and policy-makers a wide range of topics, from implement design to electricity policy and pricing. Kevin Fingerman, a University of California-Berkeley PhD student who will be doing his thesis research on SRI, happened to be visiting Hyderabad at the time and was able to sit in on the 10-hour session. He reported that the discussions were 'met with willing ears' on all sides. Such a long meeting on a single subject is uncommon, so it must have been informative and productive. One of the scientists attending from the government's Directorate for Rice Research (DRR) described the meeting as "an eye opener for us." DRR has conducted its own evaluations of SRI on a nation-wide basis over the past three years and has reported positive results. So the possibilities for broad-based cooperation among government, NGO, private sector and farmer association partners in India are improving year by year.

Dr. Muhammad Arshad at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad (UAF) has submitted a proposal, with Norman Uphoff as co-PI, to the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperative Program, for establishing a 'Research and Development Centre on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) with Technology Transfer for Improving Livelihoods of Rice-Growing Farmers' at the university.

Initial trials by UAF researchers have been promising, as have been the evaluations launched by the Ministry of Agriculture's On-Farm Water Management Division. OFWM agronomist Hafiz Mujeeb reports that this season they will have trials at 7 locations within the ADB-IRRI project area at Okara. So far, he notes, SRI seedlings have had long and vigorous root growth compared to those in 45-50 day nurseries. However, he also reports that given the high daytime temperatures in the area (up to 50 degrees C), SRI transplanting is more successful in the late afternoon or early evening when temperatures are lower than at mid-day. This is the kind of local adaptation that should be anticipated with SRI.

On July 14, Norman Uphoff was invited to participate on a panel discussion of "Biologically Intensive Agriculture: An Approach to Combating Hunger for the Poor" at the 18th World Congress of Soil Science convening in Philadelphia. Among the preceding papers was one by Andy McDonald presenting again the paper that he and others published in Field Crops Research contending that -- while SRI definitely gives better results than current farmer practices -- its yields are, on average, 11% less than 'best management practices.' Uphoff circulated a short paper (also available on request) enumerating the biases in sample construction that permitted such a conclusion, which he characterized as both wrong and irrelevant for the panel, since BMPs require purchased inputs that poor households cannot afford, whereas SRI requires no such additional expenditures. Factor productivity for land, labor, water and capital are considere more important with SRI than yield per se.

Dr. Mustapha Ceesay is attending the African Rice Congress being held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 31-August 4, and will present a paper on his evaluations of SRI in The Gambia. Ceesay started SRI evaluations in 2000 and reported on his earlier results at the Sanya conference in China in 2002. As former director of the agricultural research station at Sapu in The Gambia and a PhD in Crop and Soil Sciences from Cornell, he should have good standing among African rice scientists. Gambian farmers who divided their paddy fields in half and used SRI methods on one side and regular methods on the others had an average SRI yield of 7.4 t/ha compared to a 2.5 t/ha average with usual practices.

The note on this subject in Update #4, prompted by Mark Laing's suggestion, has led Norman Uphoff to do some web-surfing on this relationship. He would like to call attention to a review article on 'The Role of Silicon in Suppressing Rice Diseases' by Datnoff and Rodrigues, APSnet feature story, February 2005.

Higher Si content in rice is credited with more erect growth and thus better distribution of light within the canopy; resistance to lodging and drought; more dry matter accumulation; positive effects on some enzyme activity involved in photosynthesis; reduced senescence of rice leaves; lower electrolyte leakage from leaves; greater photosynthetic activity of plants grown under water deficit or heat stress; increased oxidation power of rice roots; decreased injury caused by climate stress such as typhoons and cool summer damage; reduced availability to roots of toxic elements such as Mn, Fe and Al; and increased resistance to salt stress.

The article focuses particularly on the well-documented resistance to blast exhibited by rice plants with higher Si availability. Si treatments have been shown to match fungicides in their protective ability. In addition to yield increases, the authors report other benefits: from controlling blast and other diseases, reducing grain discoloration, better insect management, reducing need for P application, and eliminating lime application (Table 7). From an SRI perspective, it is unfortunate that the article focused on the effects of applying Si to the soil rather than on the effects of managing soil, plant, water and nutrient sources differently, as in SRI, to achieve greater Si availability and more uptake from the soil. It remains to be determined how SRI practices affect Si dynamics within soil systems and plant-soil-Si interactions.

The Datnoff-Rodrigues article is complemented by a 2006 article in Natureby Jian Feng Ma et al. which takes a genetic approach to the subject. This article requires a lot of knowledge of modern genetics and is not in itself very relevant to SRI, but it confirms the importance of silicon in rice. We hope that research on this relationship will begin soon.

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