New Rice Growing Method Pushed

Wednesday, May 02, 2012 12:00 AM    Views : 3788by:MARVYN N. BENANING

MANILA, Philippines - Advocates of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) are pressing the Aquino government to support the farming method on a trial basis, contending that it works on both in-bred and hybrid rice varieties.

Roberto Verzola, SRI national coordinator for the Philippines, said Indian farmers have already beaten the world record for rice production using the system and surpassed the yield of hybrid varieties developed in China.

The SRI is an agro-ecological methodology for increasing the productivity of irrigated rice by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients. It originated in Madagascar in the 1980s and is based on the cropping principals of significantly reducing plant population, improving soil conditions and irrigation methods for root and plant development and improving the plant establishment methods.

However, the Department of Agriculture (DA) still has to approve a project to promote SRI, including a proposal to devote to SRI as part of the 400,000 hectares set aside for organic rice farming under the Organic Agriculture Act, also known as Republic Act No. 10068.

The law was authored by current Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala when he was still a Quezon congressman.

Verzola is one of many SRI advocates who did not readily jump into the bandwagon, like Dr. Norman T. Uphoff of Cornell University.

Uphoff stumbled upon SRI in 1993, decades after the system was developed by Fr. Henri de Laulanie, a Jesuit, who worked with farmers in Madagascar to devise a method to increase the yield of indigenous as well as hybrid rice varieties.

He went to Madagascar to see for himself the method adopted by farmers who planted early, relied on quality seeds, reduced the number of seeds per hill, gave bigger space for the plants to grow and did not flood their rice farms.

The yields rose from only 2 metric tons per hectare to more than 5 MT, stumping Uphoff and forcing him to test the system in Madagascar for three years, only to be amazed that the yield breach 8 MT.

Not only Uphoff but also Dr. Vernon Ruttan of the University of Minnesota, who once worked with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Los Baņos, Laguna, is convinced about the advantage of SRI.


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