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System of Rice Intensification (SRI)



Bihar, an Indian state ranking 12th in terms of geographical size and 3rd rank in what refers to population [1] is breaking the news. As an archaic center of power, learning and culture in ancient India [1] Bihar played a very important role in the development of Indian civilization some hundreds of years ago.

Nowadays Bihar is becoming popular for something completely different but with a potential effect on economic growth, a new system of cultivating and growing rice known as System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which origins go back to the 1980's when a French Jesuit Father, Henri de Laulanié started using it in Madagascar [1].  Image: Rice field & Bamboo on an open fire by Mark Veraart under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0). 


Family: Poaceae

Genus: Oryza

Common name: Asian rice



This System of Rice Intensification is based on raising the yields and increasing the potential productivity of existing rice fields by reducing or even completely eliminating the use of artificial chemicals, increasing the space between seedlings from 10 to 25 cm, weeding intensively to free rice roots and some other traditional practices aimed to improve productivity.

If you want to know more about the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) continue to read this article where we will explain you some examples that will illustrate how much farmers can profit from it.




In this new world of economic and scientific challenges, where time is scarce and almost everyone believes all our actions and activities need to be based on achieving more and more profits and economic growth, I think we should take a break and follow the example of farmers as those from Bihar state, able to achieve incredible productions and an amazing productivity of rice fields using only their minds and the natural resources that mother earth has given them combined with the ideas and philosophy of a beautiful mind, that of father Henri de Laulanié. Image: Rice plant macro by Catherine under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0).

In spite it was the Jesuit father Henri de Laulanié who revolutionized the method of rice production using this new system of rice cultivation, it wasn't until Norman Uphoff, director of the International Instituted for Food, Agriculture, and Development at Cornell University, started developing the system from 1990 until 2005 that it became so popular [1]. Nowadays the System of Rice Intensification is being used in more than 50 countries and has been extended to other crops than rice [2].




In spite this system of rice intensification requires more time and input from farmers than the conventional system its benefits are quite remarkable, avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides or herbicides and using only organic ones as well as relying solely on naturally increasing the field productivity by using high-yield varieties of rice seeds, a carefully designed way of placing the single seedlings and regularly weeding the rice fields where rice is cultivated, the system of rice intensification applies very simple common sense methods that were always there but never used. Image: Rice planting by Piers Brown under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0).

In a more precise way, the method can be described as an "organic way of farming". Some of the most characteristic points present in this way of cultivating rice can be mentioned as follows:

  • Rice plants are transplanted between 8 and 15 days.
  • Only organic compost is used and chemical fertilizers are never used, this is why some called SRI an organic system.
  • Weed control is carefully made with special tools, intensively and also aerating the soil.
  • Planting single seedlings in a space of 25x25 cm.

In the traditional methods between 35 to 40 kg of seeds are needed compared to the only five kilograms needed in System of Rice Intensification. This permits more growth of roots and canopy and to keep all leaves photosynthetically active [1];

Rice fields do not require to be filled with water but simply moisten, this improves root growth and supports the growth and diversity of aerobic soil organisms [1].

Some food for thought, as they say, let's start considering if this new method could eventually contribute to reducing or limit the food crisis that some African and third world countries are suffering and help the victims of famine to achieve better ways to control this terrible 21st-century problem.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.



[1] Wikipedia article on System of Rice Intensification under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
[2] http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/sri