SRI farmer using mechanical weeding to prevent excessive weed growth, enhance soil aeration and incorporate biomass for soil nutrient management
Photo: M. Noltze


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The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a natural resource management technology that has supporters and opponents. Evidence of the technology’s impacts is mixed. Recent research results from Timor Leste suggest that SRI can improve yields and incomes of smallholder farmers when proper extension systems are in place.

Rice is the number one food crop in large parts of the developing world. This is especially true in Asia, but in Africa, too, the importance of rice is growing. Given population growth, rising demand and limited land resources, further increases in rice yields will be required. However, yield growth has slowed down recently, and additional inputs are facing diminishing returns. Moreover, rice production with high input regimes leaves a significant environmental footprint; in some regions excessive use of fertiliser, pesticides and water has led to environmental problems, including the depletion of natural resources. Heavily fertilised, continuously flooded rice fields also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, while climate change itself is likely to impact negatively on rice production. In some regions, rice farmers are already having to cope with water scarcity and droughts. Future yield growth must hence be accomplished with less reliable water supplies, less environmental degradation and less resource depletion.

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