SRI is the System of Rice Intensification. It’s a new approach to cultivating crops and it tries to understand the principles of nature and maximise the various energies that are present in the microbes, in the soil, in the water and in the air. – Ravi Chopra, People’s Science Institute, Uttarakhand, India
SRI practices are based on agronomic principles that harness optimum growing conditions for rice plants. These practices are very different from how most farmers have been growing rice for generations, and therefore require a shift in mindset; this can be the biggest obstacle to adoption. A key principle is ‘feeding the soil’ organically rather than ‘feeding plants’ chemically. The four main practices involve planting younger and single seedlings, at wider spacing in rows, in fields that are not continuously flooded, and promoting soil health. These steps are applied as best possible under farmers’ respective conditions. Farmers find that the more steps they implement the better the yield. They have also found that the health of both plants and soil are improved.
Transplant young seedlings of 8–15 days old, instead of 21–45 days.
This minimises transplant shock and preserves the inherent growth potential of the plant
Plant with wider spacing, 1 seedling per hill, and in a square pattern, not at random.
This gives both roots and canopy more room to grow and facilitates mechanical weeding between rows. Spacing reduces competition among plants for light, water, and nutrients. Land should be as level as possible, with little surface water.
Weed several times with a weeder instead of using herbicides or hand weeding.
The weeder buries the weeds as it churns and aerates the soil’s surface.
Control water, where possible.
Maintaining unflooded, aerobic soil conditions ensures the plants’ roots do not suffocate and benefits aerobic soil organisms that ensure robust growth.
Feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants!
Organic fertilisation is best: organic matter enhances soil structure and fertility.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is ideal, where possible.
The more chemical inputs can be reduced, the better.