SRI 1.0 and Beyond: Understanding the System of Crop Intensification as SRI 3.0
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), which has developed from SRI experience, should not be understood as technologies like those of the Green Revolution. Thinking of them as methodologies is more appropriate, in part, because they keep evolving rather than being something fixed and given. This paper reviews and organizes the many versions of rice and other crop management that have emerged from SRI, using the computer software convention of numbering successive versions with a series of ascending numbers, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc. SRI 1.0 is the original set of practices developed and recommended by Fr. Henri de Laulanié in Madagascar some 40 years ago. As SRI has spread to over 60 countries, they have proved to be generally quite effective. Happily, as the experience was gained with these practices, their underlying principles were discerned and systematized, as discussed in the paper. SRI 2.0 is a set of adaptations of the original practices to be effective under different constraints or opportunities. The principles remain the same – rainfed SRI, direct-seeded SRI, mechanized SRI, etc. SRI 3.0 is the extension and adaptation of SRI ideas and principles to other crops – wheat, ragi, sugarcane, mustard, etc. – in other words, the System of Crop Intensification. SRI 4.0 is the integration of SRI ideas and practices into farming systems, going beyond mono-cropped rice production. SRI 5.0 is the use of SRI for purposes beyond agricultural production like reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, climate-proofing crops against the hazards of climate change, improving women’s conditions of work, increasing the nutritional quality of grains and other foods, and other ‘externalities’. SRI 6.0 is the research that scrutinizes SRI practices and results to advance scientific understanding that will benefit crop science, soil science, microbiology and other disciplines. These versions are not sequential as all are currently operative, and none displaces the others. SRI has shown the prime importance of two factors: plant roots’ growth and functioning; and the soil’s life – the myriad organisms from microbes to earthworms that improve soil and crop performance. SRI seeks to elicit the genetic potentials that already exist in crop plants and in soil systems. By getting the fuller expression of this potential, SRI and SCI evoke better, more robust phenotypes from a given variety (genotype). Particularly as Indian and other farmers must cope with the adverse stresses of climate change, it will become important to grow crops with better, bigger root systems in soil systems that have greater abundance, activity, and diversity of beneficial soil organisms. This suggests that SRI and SCI alternatives will better suit the farmers’ and the country’s needs over time than past and present agricultural technologies.