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This chapter reports on the evolution of SRI ideas and practices beyond irrigated rice and beyond rainfed, unirrigated rice, to a variety of food crops. One farmer in India, Gopal Swaminathan, even experimented with SRI adaptations to improve his cotton, not a food crop. He got a yield increase of about 20%, he reported by email, with lower non-labor costs. However, his labor costs went up significantly because he was planting cotton seeds individually in paper cups full of soil and compost, with the bottom removed so that the seedling roots could grow downward easily once the cups were set into a field at wide spacing.

This method for establishing cotton was too labor-intensive to make it practical without some mechanization, and low cotton prices did not make further experimentation attractive to Gopal, who also worked on other innovations for SRI such as a four-row push-weeder (Chapter 19), ridge planting, and a double-transplanting methodology.[1] But other extensions of the SRI strategy for crop improvement have proved productive and profitable for a number of crops.[2]


Seeing farmers apply SRI principles and practices to other crops was important for improving our understanding of SRI because it focused attention on the role of roots (Chapter 4) and on the life in the soil (Chapter 5), as well as on spacing. These three factors are ubiquitously important for plant performance, not just for rice.

When the benefits of extending SRI ideas to more and more crops were being seen in the Indian state of Bihar, it was suggested there that we talk about the System of Root Intensification as another SRI.[3] This designation directed attention appropriately to the impact that wider spacing, better soil conditions, and enhanced soil organic matter can have on the growth of plants’ root systems.

But the term did not encompass the concurrent beneficial impacts of having more life in the soil. Amplification of the soil biota is as important as the magnification of roots. Indeed, as seen in Chapter 5, these two effects reinforce each other in a positive-feedback loop. So, the possible confusion of having two SRIs led to a preference for using the generic designation System of Crop Intensification (SCI), whose emergence and evolution for a number of different crops other than rice is the focus of this chapter.[4]


Finger Millet

India: How I first became acquainted personally with what is now called the System of Crop Intensification is an interesting story.[5] In October 2005, while visiting Karnataka state I had the memorable experience of visiting farmers in the village of Chinnikatti and learning from them about a ‘relative’ of SRI that they had developed on their own, a methodology for improving the production of their main staple grain crop, finger millet.[6]

Instead of simply broadcasting millet seed on plowed soil, which is standard practice throughout India, these farmers marked out a square grid (45 × 45 cm) on the surface of their plowed fields. Using a narrow ox-drawn wooden chisel plow, they made shallow, intersecting furrows in the soil in a grid-like pattern. At each intersection of this grid, farmers planted two young millet seedlings and put a handful of compost or manure around their base to provide the seedlings with good nourishment.

By establishing about 8 plants per m², a fraction of the number of plants usually sown by broadcasting, the farmers had increased their yields by 2 to 3 times. Ordinarily, they got 1.25 to 2.5 tonnes per hectare, and 3.75 tonnes at most. With this farmer-devised system that they called guli ragi, yields were 4.5 to 5 tonnes per hectare, and as much as 6.25 tonnes.

One guli ragi practice seemed quite contrary to SRI at first. With SRI, the young plants are treated very gently and with great care. In guli ragi, an implement known locally as a korodu, which is basically just a log as seen below on the left, is pulled across the transplanted millet field by a pair of oxen several times between 15 and 45 days after transplanting.

The farmers were pleased to show me this implement seen below. The two of them in front showed me how the yoke is fastened onto the oxen, while a third farmer showed how he manages the implement while guiding the oxen, standing on the korudu as it is drawn across the field in several different directions, perpendicularly and otherwise.

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Pulling the log across the field in this way, the young millet plants are bent over in different directions. This slightly traumatizes the tissues at the base of the plant, at soil level from where the tillers grow upward and the roots extend downward. This moderate amount of trauma stimulates the plants to grow more tillers and more roots so that each plant becomes much bushier, with 25-30 tillers each instead of just 5-10, and with a similar expansion of the root system.

Farmers had learned that plants that were less than 15 days old were not yet tough enough to withstand the trauma. Plants more than 45 days old were no longer so supple and could break too easily. Hence, the korodu was used only between 15 and 45 days after transplanting to elicit greater tiller and root growth.

With wide spacing between plants, weed control became a problem, of course. So, a second implement is used, the yedekunte, shown above on the right. This is a kind of stirrup hoe pulled between the rows by oxen in an operation known as intercultivation.[7]

Use of the yedekunte actively aerates the soil as it cuts through weed roots 3-5 cm below the soil’s surface that it breaks up, lifting and then replacing a thin layer of soil. The guli ragi system required more labor than the traditional method, but with doubled yields and more crop resilience to storm damage and to pests and diseases, farmers considered this to be a good tradeoff.[8]

It seemed remarkable that farmers in Haveri district would have come up with a management system for improving finger millet cropping that was so similar to what had been developed for irrigated rice in Madagascar: reduced, widely spaced plant populations, planted in a square grid pattern, with more use of organic matter, and with mechanical soil aeration.

When I mentioned this farmer innovation to a colleague at ANGRAU, the agricultural university for Andhra Pradesh state, Alapati Satyanarayana said that some scientists at his university had done their own experiments with finger millet in 2004-05. They wanted to know whether millet plants would exhibit the same kind of root growth response to being transplanted at a young age as was being seen with SRI rice.

In fact, they found a very similar effect, shown in the slide below that Satyanaryana sent to me at Cornell. Seedlings transplanted 10 or 15 days after their seeds were sown in a nursery had larger, more effective root systems than did plants transplanted later by 10 days or a week.

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It was therefore not very surprising when some months later, a PRADAN staff member working in Jharkhand state, Binju Abraham, sent the picture below, shortly before he came to Cornell to do a master’s degree in international development having received a grant for this from the Ford Foundation. Farmers who were working with PRADAN in Jharkhand had seen the beneficial effects that SRI management had on their rice crop. So, they had tried out these methods with their finger millet crop.

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The plant on the right is a local variety of millet grown with farmers’ usual methods. In the middle is a plant grown from an improved variety (A404) developed at the state agricultural university and cultivated with the same traditional methods as the plant on the right. The middle plant’s larger size shows the benefit of starting with seed having more genetic potential.

The plant on the left is the same improved variety (A404) grown with what PRADAN was calling SFMI practices, the System of Finger Millet Intensification. This plant shows the positive impact on phenotype that can be achieved with modified crop management: wide spacing between plants, transplanting young seedlings rather than broadcasting seed, enhanced soil organic matter, and active soil aeration.

Subsequently, other farmers in India began experimenting with different adaptations of SRI methods for finger millet. The results were understandably somewhat varied, but in general, the same effect was seen with finger millet as was being observed with rice crops grown with SRI methods. In 2012, PRADAN published a manual on SFMI through SRI-Rice with details on the recommended practices, economics, crop protection measures, etc., based on farmers’ SFMI experience in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states.[9]

Farmers had found that with better methods they could produce 2.5 to 3.75 tonnes of millet grain per hectare compared to 1 tonne when using their usual methods. In Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, their costs of production per hectare were 24% higher because they were managing the crop more intensively. But their seed requirements were cut by 90%, needing just 1.25 kg per hectare instead of 12.5 kg. And because they attained higher yield, their costs of production per kilogram of grain harvested fell by 60%, from 34 rupees per kg to 13.5 rupees per kg.

At least part of the explanation for these changes was attributable to the improved root growth that was evident from the pictures seen above and below. The pictures below compare SFMI and millet plants grown with farmers’ usual methods. They show dramatic differences in the sizes of panicles and root systems. SFMI plants are obviously the ones on the left in each picture.

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Elsewhere: Positive results with these adapted methods have been reported also from Ethiopia and Nepal, and trials have been reported in Malawi. Below is a picture of SFMI trials in Malawi. So, this chapter in the SCI story is still being written. Farmer experience in India made clear that what was being learned from SRI work with irrigated and rainfed rice was relevant also for this mostly-subsistence rainfed crop.

Finger millet is very important in many parts of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where food insecurity and the adverse impacts of climate change are greatest. Because finger millet can be grown where rice will not thrive, it is a significant alternative to rice for staple food production. And fortunately for both producers and consumers, millet grains are more nutritious than rice.

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Because wheat ranks alongside rice as a major staple grain for the whole world, it was fairly obvious that SRI methods should be tried out with wheat, making appropriate modifications. Once it was known that SRI methods could be used successfully with rainfed rice as well as with finger millet, it seemed natural for a System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) to emerge.


India: The first reports on SWI were from the northern state of Uttarakhand where the People’s Science Institute started this with farmers in 2006.[10] Two years later, PRADAN introduced SWI in the state of Bihar with 415 farmers on small plots totaling 15 hectares. The yield differential achieved, 3.6 vs. 1.6 tonnes per hectare, gave impetus to the spread of SWI in Bihar. With support from the state’s poverty-reduction program which had World Bank support, the number of farmers using SWI methods rose to 25,235 in 2010 on 1,200 hectares and to 48,521 in 2011 on 2,536 hectares.[11]

There are now probably over 300,000 farmers using SWI methods in Bihar state, although it has become difficult to determine exact numbers because the diffusion of ideas and practices is not like spreading a new seed variety or kind of fertilizer.[12] In 2008-09, SWI was started also in Madhya Pradesh state by that state’s rural livelihood program, with similar kinds of impacts, although not as rapid a spread.[13]

The visible impact of SWI methods on wheat crops is easy to see. The picture below was taken in 2011 by Erika Styger during a visit to Muzzafarpur district of Bihar state. The two fields were planted at the same time with the same variety. The phenomenon of accelerated crop growth, along with more prolific growth, that was discussed in Chapter 11 regarding rice crops under SRI management, is evident similarly with wheat. The SWI field on the left can be harvested both earlier and with a higher yield.

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While visual evidence is gratifying, most persons like to see quantified comparisons with replicated trials and exact measurements. Researchers at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi undertook two seasons of on-station trials comparing SWI methods as practiced in Bihar with their own recommended best-management practices for wheat cultivation.[14] As it happened, the first season of trials had reasonably normal weather, but in the next year, there was climate-stress: unusually high temperatures in the first part of the season, and then more rain than usual in the latter part.

Comparing results from the two different years told researchers something about the climate resilience of SWI plants under adverse conditions. In the first year of trials, the SWI’s yield advantage over IARI’s recommended practices was 30%. The second year, the yield advantage was 46% as SWI yields declined by only 12% under climate stress compared to reductions of 18-31% in the yield of non-SWI wheat.[15] Economic analysis showed that SWI wheat gave 30% higher net income per hectare, even with its higher costs of production, so it offered economic as well as agronomic advantages.

Soil tests from the trial plots gave some interesting results bearing on the question of sustainability. In the recommended-practice plots, there were declines in the levels of soil N, P and K during the season, while in the SWI plots there were increases. The declines occurred despite applying recommended amounts of inorganic fertilizer to the first set of trials, whereas the SWI plots had received mostly organic fertilization. Elsewhere in the region, SWI use has gotten started in Nepal and Afghanistan.[16]

Ethiopia and Mali: The first experimentation with SWI in Africa was in Ethiopia, where the Institute for Sustainable Development in Addis Ababa started farmer trials in 2004 with its own version of SWI in Tigray province. This was before the Institute knew about either SRI or SWI. The first systematic SWI activity in Africa was in Mali among farmers who were working with the NGO Africare in the Timbuktu region. Farmers began to modify their wheat cultivation practices in 2009, a year after they began using SRI ideas to improve their rice production.

From their first-year trials, Malian farmers found direct-seeding to be more effective than transplanting when growing wheat around Timbuktu. Under these soil and climatic conditions, the SWI methods that the farmers used with transplanting of seedlings did not increase wheat yield by very much, only by 13%.

However, the new practices reduced farmers’ labor requirements by 30% to 40%, which boosted by 75% the productivity of their labor (kg of wheat produced per day of work). Farmers also calculated that SWI methods reduced their water requirements by 25% to 30%, evidently because of improvements in both root growth and soil structure.[17] The difference between SWI and non-SWI grain panicles, shown below, was something that farmers could easily observe for themselves.

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Styger reports that farmers, based on their own experimentation and evaluation, settled on a version of SWI where they planted two grains per hill with spacing 15 × 15 cm.[18] Seed requirements were reduced by 90%, from 100-150 kg per hectare with traditional broadcasting, to 10-12 kg with direct-sown SWI methods. The grain that is saved could be either eaten or sold. Yields were usually doubled, and sometimes even tripled.

Over a period of 7 years, when traditional wheat yields in the region ranged between 1 and 2 tonnes per hectare, and 2.4 tonnes was the best yield reached, the lowest yield with SRI was 3 tonnes, and some fields produced 5.5 tonnes per hectare.

Farmers in the pioneer villages are now planting all of their wheat cultivation area with SWI methods, and neighboring villages have started to adopt SWI in their own fields, according to reports that Styger has received from the region. In the 2016-17 season, it is estimated that about half of the wheat area within a 12-village area was planted with SWI.

The spread may be underestimated because there has been no institutional support or follow-up. Despite security problems and Jihadist occupation in the Timbuktu region in 2012, farmers have persevered with SWI methods to improve their wheat production and food security.

Elsewhere: A growing environment utterly different from the edge of the Sahara Desert is the northern state of Maine in the United States where organic farmer Mark Fulford tried out SWI methods on his farm in 2009. He got vigorous growth from young, widely spaced wheat plants, as seen below at 28 days after transplanting. They continued to perform very well through most of the short growing season in Maine. Unfortunately, a hungry moose got into the field and consumed the plants before they matured, so there is no information on what the yield would have been (personal communication from Mark Fulford). But it can be said that SWI appears feasible in the US.[19]

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In Europe, in Netherlands and Belgium, there has also been some interest among farmers if not among many researchers in SWI application for their wheat crops.[20]

It has been surprising that there has been little evident curiosity about SWI within the wheat science community, apart from the researchers at IARI in India, who needed several years of encouragement before agreeing to undertake a systematic evaluation.[21] The International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement (CIMMYT) has shown even less interest in SWI than the International Rice Research Institute has taken in SRI, but that is a matter for Chapter 22.[22] In India, the ICAR Institute for Wheat and Barley Research was quite resistant to studying SWI, while the ICAR Institute for Rice Research has worked with SRI since 2005.



Sugarcane differs from rice, finger millet and wheat in that the plant itself, the cane, is the crop, not the grain produced by the plant. Botanically they all belong to the same family of plants (grasses, or Gramineae) which means that the phenomenon of phyllochrons (Chapter 6) applies to this crop’s growth and how to manage the crop most productively.[23] SCI applications to sugarcane emerged in India much as SWI for wheat did in Mali, from farmer initiatives that extrapolated SRI experience with rice to improve the productivity of another crop.


India: The first moves toward sugarcane intensification came from Indian farmers who were utilizing SRI methods to grow more rice. Fortuitously, farmer initiatives for sugarcane SCI could gain momentum by integrating knowledge and techniques from prior research and experimentation by sugarcane specialists that went back several decades.[24]

This previous scientific work was integrated with farmer versions of SCI to create what is being called the Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI). While the initial farmer-devised SCI methods worked well, it has proved easier and more profitable to plant cane fields with what are called ‘bud-chip’ seedlings. This simple technology has been important for the takeoff of SSI in India.

I first learned about SRI farmer innovation with sugarcane during a visit to Andhra Pradesh in 2005, when I met Dr. Shashi Bhushan, coordinator of ANGRAU’s agricultural extension center (KVK) in Medak district. He was working with an SRI farmer in that region, Prabhakar Reddy, on some interesting ideas that Reddy had come up with for improving his own cane production.[25]

Sugarcane crops are usually established by laying 30-40 cm lengths of cane, called setts, onto the ground in rows, about 1 meter apart. Each sett has 2-3 buds from which shoots can sprout upward while roots grow into the soil from the same reproductive tissue. In the rows there is spacing of 10-20 cm between the plants that emerge from the setts. Considerable irrigation water is provided for the crop during its growing season, and herbicides are used to suppress weed growth.

Drawing on his SRI experience of transplanting young rice seedlings with wide spacing, Reddy put short lengths of cane, each length having just one bud, into polyurethane plastic bags, along with moist compost so that a seedling would sprout from the bud. After 45 days, these seedlings were transplanted into the field in rows 2 meters apart, not 1 m, and with 1 meter spacing between the plants, not 10-20 cm.

This radically reduced the amount of cane planting material needed per hectare, from 4-5 tonnes to just 600 kg of cane per hectare. This reduction of 85-90% is roughly the same percentage as the lower seed requirements with SRI rice cultivation.

The area between plants and rows was mulched with any vegetative material available. This conserved water in the soil, reducing evaporation while suppressing weed growth. This also protected the soil from solar overheating which adversely affects the beneficial organisms living in the surface layer of soil. Instead of harvesting 30-40 tonnes of cane, Reddy got a yield of 100 tonnes -- using less seed cane, less water, less fertilizer, and fewer agrochemical applications.[26]

I was told at the time that some other Andhra Pradesh farmers were also trying their own adaptations of SRI ideas that season to improve their sugarcane production. But all of these practices were superseded within two years by a further change in crop establishment methods mentioned above. This was actually the resurrection of a technique that had been developed by a sugarcane researcher six decades earlier, but which had been used only experimentally or on a very small scale.[27]

This innovation involved a simple implement, a cutting tool that cut out the buds (nodes for growth) from sugar canes, leaving the canes essentially intact and usable for producing sugar rather than being sacrificed as seed cane, cut up as setts. The buds, which weighed only 10-15 grams each, could be grown into cane seedlings in cups or small containers that were filled with soil or compost. These seedlings were nurtured in shaded nurseries before being replanted into cane fields when their shoots and roots were sufficiently mature, usually when 25 to 30 days old.[28]

With good management, this methodology could give cane yields of 125 to 235 tonnes per hectare, compared to the more common yield in India of about 80 tonnes. And SSI methods reduced the need for irrigation water and for other expenditures. An immediate benefit was the great saving in seed cane because instead of putting lengths of cane into the field as setts to regrow a crop, very small amounts of bud tissue (apical meristem) were removed from the cane to grow seedlings.

With this method, only a few kilograms of planting material are needed, instead of 4 to 5 tonnes of cane per hectare. Practically all of the cane from which buds are excised can be sent to the mill for crushing and sugar production. There is no need to hold back 10% of a season’s harvest to be used to start the next crop. This in itself raises sugarcane yield per hectare. Below are pictures of a simple cutting tool to remove the buds from cane to be planted in cups or trays to grow seedlings, and on the right, a seedling ready for planting into the field, held up in an SSI nursery.

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It has been learned that there was little mortality of seedlings grown in nurseries like this, whereas the crowded sprouts that grow from setts with the conventional methods of crop establishment have a mortality of about one-third, which results in a waste of both water and soil nutrients.[29] Below are pictures of SSI sugarcane being grown in India and in Cuba.

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Elsewhere: While India is the home of SSI, efforts have started to extend this knowledge to other countries. In 2009, the WWF-ICRISAT ‘dialogue’ project which was promoting SRI for rice (Chapter 8) published a manual on SSI methods for sugarcane. Then in 2012, SRI colleagues in this project established a public-service consulting firm called AgSri to continue their promotion of agroecological innovation. They have published a revised SSI manual based on further farmer experience.[30]

When AgSri received an award from the Millennium Alliance in 2014 for its work in India,[31] this prize money enabled AgSri to introduce SSI in Kenya. Then by working with an SRI promoter in Cuba (Chapter 46), SSI got started on several sugar plantations in that country, with an SSI manual being prepared in Spanish.[32] SSI has also been introduced to Tanzania and Belize. However, SCI for sugarcane is still at an early stage of its trajectory. Its dissemination so far has been dependent largely on the persistent efforts of Dr. Biksham Gujja and his AgSri associates.



Ethiopia: This grain is now becoming better known outside of Ethiopia where it originated and where it is the preferred staple food because of its hardiness and its many nutritional benefits.[33] Because teff grains are so tiny (2,500-3,000 teff seeds weigh only 1 gram), the idea of growing this crop from seedlings rather than by broadcasting the seeds on a ploughed field had apparently not occurred to anybody before.

When I visited Addis Ababa in July 2008 to give a seminar on SRI and SCI to a diverse audience assembled by the Horn of Africa Environmental Program at the University of Addis Ababa, Tareke Berhe, who at the time was the Sasakawa Africa Association’s regional director for rice,[34] got the idea of adapting the SRI methods used for rice production to help Ethiopian farmers increase their production of teff.[35] As seen below, he succeeded beyond his or anyone else’s imagination.

My powerpoint presentation on SCI included the pictures shown above on finger millet (SFMI).[36] Tareke thought that perhaps these methods could be adapted for teff, a crop that he had known and grown since boyhood. Indeed, he was the first crop breeder in the world to hybridize teff.[37] When Tareke asked me about using SRI methods for teff, I told him that I did not know whether the methods would work with teff. Anything biological has so many elements that need to work together. But we knew that SRI ideas for irrigated rice were being applied successfully to upland rice and finger millet. This response I forgot until a year later.

In July 2009, Tareke sent an email message to me saying that he was in the US and asking whether he could come to Cornell to tell us about the results of his STI experimentation. The answer was, of course, yes. The results from his trials that he reported in a seminar for students and faculty who were still on campus during the summer vacation were quite remarkable.

Two-week-old seedlings of two different teff varieties had been transplanted individually in trial plots with a spacing of 20 × 20 cm. The results from plots with treatments replicated three times were compared with plots where the standard method for planting teff (broadcasting) had been used. The latter trials yielded only 1 tonne per hectare.

Additional STI trials that Tareke conducted evaluated the productivity of seedlings grown from seeds which had been treated with fertilizer before they were sown in the nursery vs. seedlings grown from seeds which had not been treated. The average STI yield from untreated seeds was 3.7 tonnes per hectare, while the average yield with treated seeds was 4.7 tonnes, 27% higher.[38] Both results were multiples of the yield from conventional cultivation.

The next growing season, Tareke had conducted further trials to see what the effect of his STI methods would be when they were used with soil amended with macro- and micronutrients. These results were so remarkable that he did not include them in the written paper that he distributed at the Cornell seminar; he put these results only in his powerpoint presentation.

With soil amendments of urea (N) plus diammonium phosphate (DAP), the STI yield was 6.7 tonnes per hectare, seven times more than from the control plots with unfertilized broadcasted teff, which yielded less than 1 tonne (938 kg) per hectare. When Tareke added some additional soil amendments of zinc and copper, the yields were up to nine times more than the controls.[39] Below on the left is a comparison of an STI teff plant vs. a more usual teff plant. On the right is a picture of STI teff panicles in the fertilized trials, cascades of ripening teff grains such as Tareke had not seen before.

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The next year, with some financial support from Oxfam America that I was able to mobilize, Tareke and colleagues carried out evaluations and demonstrations of STI at the two major centers of agricultural research in the country.[40] These trials confirmed the initial results and attracted the interest of decision-makers and donor agencies. Expanded evaluations were done in successive years, and STI gained an institutional base of support when the Ethiopian government set up an Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) in 2009.[41]

This agency made STI one of its main initiatives because teff production in Ethiopia was lagging so far behind consumer demand. The price of teff in markets was so high that many of the poor households that produced this fine grain could no longer afford to eat it themselves. Instead they sold the teff they produced to buy more cheaper coarser grains for home consumption.[42]

Few of the government researchers understood the principles that undergird STI as well as Tareke and his colleague Zewdie Gebretsadik did, and the government was in a hurry to close the production-consumption gap. Its agents were disinclined to take the time and make the effort to educate and enlist Ethiopian farmers in agroecological management. And government researchers were still fixated on raising agricultural production by introducing their new seed varieties and expected that increased reliance on agrochemical inputs was necessary.

They developed a simpler production strategy which they named TIRR = Teff with Improved seed, Reduced seed rate, and Row planting. To those who understood SRI and STI, this represented a kind of ‘STI-lite,’ but government decision-makers preferred it.

The TIRR methodology involved the use of improved varieties, sown with much lower plant density and in rows by direct-seeding. Use of ‘balanced’ chemical fertilizers was also part of this package. Given the low nutrient status of most soils in Ethiopia, adding soil nutrient amendments was a quick but effective way to boost yield. This ‘semi-intensive’ system required much less labor than did STI because there were no nursery tasks and no transplanting.

But TIRR did not raise production as dramatically as STI methods did. Its increase was about 75% over what could be achieved with usual teff-cultivation practices, a remarkable increase, but much less than SRI could achieve. This ‘SRI-lite’ did produce more than using either a new variety or chemical fertilizer could accomplish. It had the advantage of making fewer changes in conventional practice, so that it was easier to get accepted by farmers. So, with government backing, TIRR could be disseminated farther and faster than the more productive STI methods.

The significant productivity advantage of STI, with its wider spacing and much reduced plant population, was seen from trials conducted in 2014 which compared the average yields from:

(a) broadcasting teff seed at 30 kg per hectare;

(b) broadcasting seed at just 5 kg per hectare, reducing the standard seed rate by 83%;

(c) direct-seeding with a mechanical seed drill, planting rows using 5 kg of seed per hectare, the same amount as in (b) but giving the plants regular and wide spacing within rows;

(d) transplanting seedlings as recommended for STI, with just 0.4 kg of seed per hectare. 

This last treatment (d) cut the seed rate by a whole order of magnitude compared with (a), and yet it gave higher yield, as seen in the figure below. Comparing the first and second yields shows that reducing plant density by five-sixths raised crop yield by about half a tonne per hectare.

Then, comparing the second and third yields, this same amount of seed could produce 40% more grain when sown in rows with wider spacing rather than being broadcast. Finally, when using full STI methods, transplanting widely-spaced young seedlings increased yield by another 20% (4th yield vs. 3rd yield). Reducing the seed rate by more than 90% when using adapted SRI methods for teff, starting with transplanting young seedlings, produced one-fifth more yield than when directly sowing twelve times more seed![43]

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In 2011/12 when the ATA started scaling up TIRR, it set a target of having 70,000 farmers using the new methods that season. Actually, 160,000 farmers used them that year, according to ATA, plus another 7,000 who used the full STI package. Within three years, by 2014/15, the ATA reported that 2.2 million Ethiopian farmers were using TIRR methods on one-third of the country’s 6.5 million hectares. In this period, national production of teff increased by 38%, going from 3.4 million tonnes to 4.7 million tonnes.[44]

There have been some questions raised about how many farmers are actually using TIRR methods, and how well they are using the methods, and with what effect.[45] Some of the increase in production can be attributed to the use of new varieties or to increased application of fertilizer. But in any case, there were some huge increases being made in teff crop productivity resulting from changes in management.[46] The data refer mostly to TIRR promotion, but they gave strong evidence that there are large reservoirs of teff crop potential that can be tapped through the use of STI methods as developed by Tareke and his colleagues.



The food crop to which we would most like to have SCI methods successfully extrapolated is maize because this is such an important crop for hundreds of millions of households, especially for millions who live in poverty and insecurity on limited, unstable land bases in Africa and Central America. In principle, there should be as much potential for making gains in maize production as for rice and wheat. But so far there has been limited experience with this SMI, the system of maize intensification, not to confused with SMI for mustard, below.

The principal factors that contribute to SCI success, promoting root growth and the soil biota, should apply to maize plants as well as for other crops. We have seen a great variety of crops responding positively to these factors which are enhanced by practices like wider spacing and increased soil organic matter as well as by complementary practices like more careful seed selection and active soil aeration. We have reports from India that maize yields can be increased by 50% to 100% with adaptations of SRI ideas and methods.[47] Below are pictures of a SCI maize crop in Uttarakhand state and of SCI maize cobs (shown on left) in a Madhya Pradesh village. But much more work remains to be done on applying SCI with this major crop.

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Rice, wheat, finger millet, sugarcane, maize and teff are all what botanists classify as monocotyledons, a distinction discussed in this chapter’s second endnote. These crops are all grass-family plants (Gramineae) which grow with a profusion of stems or tillers extending upward and with a mass of roots growing downward into the soil.

Mustard was an unexpected addition to the SCI family because like most other crop plants it is a dicotyledon. This means that it has a main stem which grows upward while a main root grows downward. Unlike grass-family plants, its growth is not patterned according to phyllochrons (Chapter 6) as are the monocots. So, it was not evident that SRI methods would be as beneficial for growing mustard as for growing rice.

The term ‘mustard’ applies to a number of crop plant species in the Brassica family. Although the name is usually associated with condiments and spices, the most important use of mustard crops is as sources of vegetable oil, mostly referred to as rapeseed or canola, used for cooking. Worldwide, mustard crops are the third largest source of cooking oils, and they are especially important in South Asia.

India: Like teff, mustard has extremely small seeds, so the idea of cultivating mustard by growing seedlings from such tiny seeds and then transplanting them seemed at first quite unpromising. Once SCI methods started being applied to mustard in north India, we learned of a farmer in Odisha state who had previously developed over 20 years earlier a mustard production methodology similar to SMI. P.C. Satpathy had transplanted single 20-day-old seedlings spaced 35 × 40 cm apart. He got yields of 3.5 tonnes per hectare, rather than 1 tonne, with a benefit-cost ratio of 3.5:1. By transplanting instead of broadcasting, he cut his seed rate by >95%, from 6-10 kg per hectare to 200-400 grams. But this methodology, for reasons not known, did not spread much in his area.[48]

The first systematic use of SMI methods began in Gaya district of Bihar state in the 2009-10 rabi (winter) season with seven women farmers who were assisted by the NGO PRADAN and the government’s Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA). The methodology started with seedlings 8-12 days old widely spaced, planted in pits (15 cm across and 20-25 cm deep) after the soil had been removed, broken up and mixed with organic matter, and replaced. Supplementary water was provided at 15, 30 and 40 days after transplanting, and the surface soil around the plants was disturbed from time to time to aerate it.

This required more labor, but the results were more than satisfactory. Mustard plants usually had about 100 grams of seed, with a maximum of 200 grams. SMI plants had 15-20 good-sized seed pods with a harvested weight of 500 grams. While costs of production per hectare were 72% greater, the cost per kg of producing mustard seed was lower by 59%. Producing mustard is usually not very remunerative, with a net income of 3,266 rupees per hectare, about 50 US$ by current exchange rates. With SMI management, the profitability per hectare of growing mustard was raised to 43,435 rupees (> US$ 650),[49] giving impetus for spread.[50]

In the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh, that state’s Rural Livelihood Program working with the ATMA in Umaria district started promoting SMI methods in 2012-13 with 70 farmers on 11.9 hectares. The next year, these numbers increased to 3,000 farmers and 1,000 hectares. Crop-s on the fields of eight farmers who had used the methods as recommended showed an average yield of 4.7 tonnes per hectare.

The methods were certainly more labor-intensive, as the labor inputs per hectare are almost tripled, and total costs of production per hectare are raised by 47%. However, the increased yield more than compensated. Net income per hectare was raised from 27,114 rupees (US$ 415 at current exchange rates) to 117,380 rupees (US$ 1,800).[51]

The increase in factor productivity with this SMI is so great that, as with SRI and other kinds of SCI, if a farmer does not have enough labor to use the new methods on his entire landholding, he will be better off using the methods just on as much of his land as his labor supply permits. It will be more profitable for the farmer to leave the rest of his/her land fallow and to use as much labor as his household has or can hire to use the new methods on just a portion of the household’s land. Not having enough labor to use these methods of intensification on one’s entire area is not an economically-rational reason to continue with the present, less-productive methods of production.

Although SMI started somewhat later than the other versions of SCI considered here, it has gained momentum. A 2017 report in the magazine India Today noted that the new methods were starting to have an impact across half a dozen states of northern India, with average yields of 3.1 tonnes per hectare, and yields as high as 5.7 tonnes per hectare, many times more than the usual yield of about 1 tonne per hectare with conventional methods.[52]

The kind of growth that SMI methods can elicit from mustard plants is seen in the pictures below. On the left, our SRI colleague Om Rupela of ICRISAT, unfortunately now deceased, stands with a village boy in front of an SMI field in Bihar state. On the right, I am standing with an SMI farmer in the Sundarbans of West Bengal state. It is hard to imagine how these large plants grow from seeds only 1-2 mm in diameter, with 900-1000 of them weighing just one gram.[53] But wider spacing with greater root growth and enhanced life in the soil can make a big difference in the phenotype for dicotyledons as well as monocotyledons.​

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India: My first introduction to SCI for vegetables was in 2011 when my wife Marguerite and I met with SRI and SWI farmers, mostly women, in Bihar state. A half dozen women farmers in Gaya district were pleased to show us their eggplant plots on which they were using an own adaptation of SRI methods. They also showed us proudly the large concrete containers that they had made for processing vermicompost, compost enriched by the activity of worms.

Eggplant, also known as aubergine or brinjal, is botanically classified as a fruit, but functionally it is grown and consumed like a vegetable. The women extolled the greater number and size of the eggplants that they were able to harvest and consume or to sell as a result of their new growing methods. Their products got a higher price in the market, not a lot higher, but for very poor households earning even a few more rupees is more than welcome.

A World Bank-funded project in Bihar that supported SCI vegetable production as well as such the new methods for wheat, mustard and legumes reported that with changes in crop management derived from SRI experience, small and marginal farmers were raising their average yield of vegetables by 20%. And with lower costs of production and higher quality produce, which commanded a better market price, the farmers’ average net income per hectare from vegetables was higher by 47%.[54]

United States: The first person in this country to take SCI ideas seriously was an organic farmer in the state of Maine, Mark Fulford, who has had much success in enhancing his carrot production with these ideas, as well as other crops. (Mark’s experimentation with SWI wheat was reported above.) His carrot production was already fairly intensive using raised beds.

But by modifying the spacing and timing of his operations and by further improving his soil management according to SCI thinking, his carrot crop in 2014 had a yield of 73 tonnes per hectare and a market value of US$ 173,000 per hectare. All but 12% of his crop qualified as Grade A, which added to its value.[55] Few farmers will plant and manage a whole hectare of carrots this way, but a smaller SCI carrot plot on a fraction of a hectare can be very remunerative if there is a market for quality produce.

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Sierra Leone: Improving the production of green leafy vegetables in tropical West Africa with SCI concepts and methods is quite different from growing carrots in the northeastern United States. This was undertaken by Gerald Aruna, a farmer and agricultural instructor in Sierra Leone who is also country representative for the Italian NGO, ENGIM.

Krain krain is a popular green leafy vegetable used in stews and other dishes consumed in many West African countries, being rich in beta carotene and other nutrients. Its English name is mallow, and its Latin designation is Corchorus olitorius.

Normally this plant is grown by broadcasting seed onto the soil with 250-350 plants per m². These are pulled up and consumed, producing about 300 grams per m² which represents a yield of 3 tonnes per hectare.

SCI methods for growing krain krain start by transplanting seedlings 8-15 days old, 20 × 20 cm apart, establishing just 25 plants per m². This means that plant density is reduced by a whole order of magnitude. A first plucking of leaves gives about 700 grams per m², a yield of 7 tonnes. Then a second plucking of regrown krain krain leaves adds another 3 kg per m², another 30 tonnes per ha. The yield increase is more than 10 times, from one-tenth as many plants.

A third regrowth could be harvested from these krain krain plants, but farmers have figured that they benefit more from letting this third crop go to seed, so that they can harvest its seeds to replant the crop. This way they do not have buy any new seed as is done with conventional practice, which gives farmers additional economic benefit. Farmers have also found that the seeds from SCI-grown plants with their aggrandized root systems have a very high germination rate (90%), which is a further benefit that is hard to quantify.[56]

Soil-aerating weeding (or soil surface disturbance) is done around the krain krain plants every 7 days. This requires considerably more labor than farmers’ traditional methods. But the yield is so much greater that the extra effort is very profitable, and the plants themselves are found to be more resistant to diseases and pests. If a farmer thinks that the greater labor time needed is too much, he or she will be better served by cultivating a smaller area with these methods than by continuing with the old ones.

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These different SCI versions for vegetable production in India, the United States and Sierra Leone are quite dissimilar, reflecting differences in the vegetable crop as well as in the growing environments. But the principles behind the practices employed are similar, each inspired by what farmers and others had learned from their experience with SRI for improving rice production.


Legumes and pulses

As with maize, most of the experimentation applying SCI ideas and methods to leguminous crops has also been in India. As reported in the most inclusive article on SCI published so far,[57] the performance of a great variety of pulses has been improved by SCI methods: chickpeas, common beans, cowpeas, kidney beans, lentils, mung beans, peanuts, garden peas, pigeon peas, and soybeans. But their SCI development has been more adventitious than planned.[58]

Most work on pulse SCI has been done in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu states.[59] The People’s Science Institute in Dehradun working with farmers in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand has calculated an average yield increase of 46% across seven kinds of pulses, while a World Bank study of SCI pulse production in Bihar state reported an average yield increase of 56%, with 67% higher net income per hectare from pulses that were grown under SCI management.[60]

The changes in practice that give such results, prompted by SRI experience and ideas, are first to reduce plant population, sowing only 1 or 2 seeds in each hill, with the seeds carefully selected and with the hills more widely spaced. There is more provision of organic matter to the soil, and some active soil aeration around the plants is part of the management strategy.

Since these crops are not irrigated, there is no managing of water, but efforts are made to improve the structure and functioning of the soil so that more water is absorbed and retained than with standard soil management which often leads to compaction and greater bulk density. Some supplemental provision of water during the season if there is water stress on the plants is of course beneficial. This can be done by hand watering, less arduous with fewer plants.

For some leguminous crops, transplanting seedlings as with mustard is more successful than the direct planting of seeds. But this is an empirical matter for farmers to determine. Which method is the most effective for SCI crop establishment will depend on the particular crop and variety as well as on the farmers’ soil and climatic conditions.

The picture below on the left shows the difference in size of chickpea grains that farmers have observed in the Indian state of Gujarat; the grains on the right were grown with SCI methods. The picture on the right is from Ethiopia, comparing the size and vigor of lentil plants (SCI plant is on the right). These pictures show the kind of effects from SCI management that are being seen with pulse production in Africa as well as in Asia.

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The first effort to improve the production of spices by drawing on SRI precedents was, as far as we know, another STI: the development of a System of Turmeric Intensification in a South Indian village. In 2008, my wife Maguerite and I were invited in visit Thambal village in Salem district of Tamil Nadu state. We were hosted by the first formally-established SRI farmers’ association in India.[61] The success of these farmers with SRI methods for their rice production was impressive, but not unusual. What attracted most of our attention were the adaptations that Thambal farmers had made to improve their supplementary production of turmeric, a root crop, not a cereal or vegetable.

The SRI farmer association’s president subsequently prepared, and SRI-Rice published, a manual on STI in 2012. In this manual, Baskaran, a small-scale farmer with some university education, explained the new methods.[62] Turmeric plant seedlings for transplanting are grown from small pieces of the rhizome (root), not whole rhizomes, much like the seedling-growing methods for SSI sugarcane.

The amount of seed material necessary for growing a crop of turmeric is reduced by 80%. Spacing between the plants is increased by one-third over current practice, and irrigation is reduced by two-thirds. The use of green manure and compost replaces the use of chemical fertilizers to have fully organic production.

With these methods, farmers increased their yield of turmeric roots by 25%, not as much increase as with most other SCI applications. However, they could cut their costs of production by more than 20%. With cost savings of more than US$ 800 per hectare, their added income was almost US$ 2,500 per hectare. This was achieved, according to Baskaran, with seed saving, labor saving, water saving, and power saving. He wrote under the table that analyzed costs and returns in detail: “This increased income of Rs. 60,000+ [per acre] is because of our inspiration from SRI experience!”

Several years later and far to the north, Gurpreet Singh with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme began working with some farmers in Gujarat state to apply SCI ideas to their production of cumin and coriander. SCI practices that enhanced root system growth and the life in the soil made demonstrable improvements’ in these spice plants’ growth, health, and profitability.[63]

Spices are crops for which the applications of SCI are just beginning to be explored, but they are crops that are often important for poor households as a supplementary source of income, and some have medicinal value. They are also often women’s crops, so there are gender implications for this version of SCI. There was never any intention to use SCI knowledge in this sub-sector, but since SCI like SRI is a set of ideas, not a fixed technology, such extensions are possible and welcome.



There have been some even greater stretches of farmers’ imagination to use SRI experience and thinking to improve their production of other agricultural commodities even more different from rice than are vegetables and spices. This chapter concludes with some unexpected extensions of SRI experience that I have come across in SRI travels -- to avian and entomological production, and to perennial crops rather than annuals.

Full discussion of these innovations would require much more space, and this chapter is already longer than the others. This final section proceeds in the spirit of story-telling rather than as scientific discourse, reporting as correctly as possible on subject matters that are fairly fantastic. These observations show how the ideas of SRI once in circulation and being treated with some imagination, as well as with rigorous empiricism, can further expand the realms of agricultural productivity.

Chicken SCI

In March 2005, on my second visit to Cambodia, Dr. Y.S. Koma, founder and director of CEDAC, the NGO that introduced SRI in this country, took me to the village of Pak Bang Oeun in Takéo province. This village was one of the most successful and self-reliant among those where CEDAC had provided farmers with SRI training. Our interaction with its residents was extremely gratifying, including one farmer’s comment that now with SRI methods, his household which had just 12 ares of paddy land (1,200 m2, or one-eighth of a hectare) was able to produce enough rice to meet its staple food needs for a full year.[64]

As Koma and I got ready to leave the village, one of the women asked if we would like to know how they were improving their chicken production as a result of their SRI experience? Our answer was, of course, yes. She started by saying that farmers in Pak Bang Oeun have learned the value of making compost for their fields, using any and all biomass that they can lay their hands on. So, most households now have compost piles near their houses, putting food scraps and any other organic waste material into the piles to decompose.

One household in the village got the idea of fencing in its compost pile with local materials (bamboo) and of putting its free-ranging chickens inside the fence where they could feed on the worms and insects that infest the compost as well as on vegetative material. With greater consumption of protein, the chickens grew faster and got fatter. Farmers found that this also improved the quality of their compost because the feces that the chickens deposited in it made it richer and more potent.

Keeping their chickens within the fence also meant that these were now safer from dogs and thieves. So, there were fewer losses of hens that had been previously accepted as normal. Collecting eggs was also much easier, with no need to go hunting for them.

The most important benefit, the woman farmer said, was that there were now fewer deaths among their chickens during the summer. During this hot dry season, free-ranging chickens become heat-stressed and often die of dehydration. These losses can be avoided by putting a pan of water inside the fence for the chickens. Also, farmers could quickly see when any of their chickens become ill, so they can use inexpensive traditional medicines to restore their birds’ health.

Farmers found that with this management strategy they could get more eggs and more meat from fewer, better-cared-for chickens. “With less, we get more,” said one of the women listening to the conversation. “Just like SRI.” So, this was a kind of ‘SRI for chickens’ as farmers saw that ‘less could produce more’ if their available resources were managed differently and better.

When Koma and I revisited the village of Pak Bang Oeun the next year, the farmers said that these methods were still performing well.[65] Seventeen households were seriously involved in chicken-raising combined with compost-making and were selling their organically-raised chickens for a premium price.

When Koma and I returned to Phnom Penh, he took me to a retail store that CEDAC had established with assistance from Oxfam America. This was one of three organic food stores that CEDAC was operating in cooperation with Khmer farmers who had become members of the Farmer-Nature-Network that CEDAC and farmers had created along with the SRI program.

Farmer-members could sell their produce in the capital city at a premium but fair price to urban consumers who preferred to purchase and consume organic (SRI) rice, organic chicken, organic greens, organic spices, etc. This was one of the first manifestations of value-chain thinking and organization building on an SRI base that is discussed in Chapter 17.



If the idea of ‘chicken SRI’ seemed odd, it was surpassed by learning from poor but very inventive tribal farmers in the northeastern Indian state of Jharkhand. They were applying their SRI experience with rice to improving their production of a little-known entomological product, lac. This is not a major commodity, but it is an important source of income for tens of thousands of very poor households in Jharkhand and in some other marginal areas in South and Southeast Asia.

Lac is a red-colored resin that is secreted by several species of the lac insect family (usually Kerria lacca) as they burrow, live and reproduce in the bark of trees or shrubs. This waxy resin when collected by hand and purified by collectors can be sold to traders, being ultimately used in making shellac paints, lacquer carvings, jewelry, and other things. It is an ancient commodity long valued for its luster and durability.[66]

When my wife Marguerite and I visited Jharkhand in 2012 to learn more about the SRI work that was going on in that state,[67] our host Binju Abraham of PRADAN was even more excited by the possibilities for improving the livelihoods for some of the poorest of the poor in this very poor state, by utilizing farmers’ adaptations of SRI ideas to their production of lac.

To us it was hard to imagine how ideas and methods developed for improving irrigated rice production could be used to increase an insect output that was, in turn, a valuable industrial or artistic input.

Binju explained that gathering and selling lac was something that only the poorest, and especially landless households, do in India. It is exceedingly labor-intensive and thus not very remunerative. But because lac growing and collecting involves almost no capital cost, it is an occupation open to the very poor. All someone needs for engaging in this activity is access to land where trees and shrubs grow freely.

Wasteland areas in India that are open-access property are available for anyone willing to invest the labor needed to inoculate trees and shrubs with the eggs of lac insects. When these hatch and begin growing and moving around, they excrete the valued resin.

Binju explained that the world market price for lac had been rising, now reaching US$ 10 per kg, because the demand for lac is increasing in the US, Europe and Japan. Lac, a natural product, is used as an organic spray to coat fruits like apples and pears, invisibly keeping them from dehydration during shipping, storing, and display. Poor people who have few other opportunities to earn income can support themselves, meagerly, by managing these insects, much like silkworms have been managed historically.[68]

When PRADAN began introducing SRI ideas to farmers in this district, few of whom had access to rainfed or irrigated land for growing rice, several figured out how how they could improve their lac operations with these ideas. Binju and a tribal farmer, seen below, showed Marguerite and me his plot with insect-infested shrubs, managed in novel ways that are both labor-saving and income-enhancing. The picture below shows the stems of a shrub covered with the whitish exudation of the cultured insects which would soon be collected, purified, and sold.

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The following basic principles or practices of SRI had been understood and adapted by tribal farmers to improve the productivity of their lac cultivation.

1. Reduced populations of eggs and larvae: Farmers have found that they can get as much, or even more, production of resin by reducing the intensity of their inoculation of the bark of trees or shrubs, by as much as 80% compared to their traditional practice. Like rice farmers, these farmers had come to believe (incorrectly) that by increasing the number of larvae per square meter of bark, they could increase their insects’ production of resin.

In fact, too many insects were being concentrated in a given area of bark. So, insect health and productivity could be increased by the number of insects that the farmers transfer to new bark areas, coincidentally by about as much seed reduction as is recommended for SRI.

Reducing the density of inoculation by 80% means that under SLI management, farmers have five times more inoculation material than they had before, and this can greatly expand their scale of inoculation (production). Both production and productivity are increased by this change in practice.

2. Earlier transplanting: Normally, to inoculate the bark of new trees or shrubs, lac farmers remove some inhabited bark from an old tree and graft it onto a new plant’s bark as soon as the larvae have begun to hatch and come out of the bark. Prompted by their SRI experience, farmers found that there is great advantage from transplanting the inhabited bark about 10 days before the larvae begin to emerge.

This way there is little or no loss of larvae in the transfer process since these are still unhatched in the bark. Once the larvae have begun emerging, not all of them get transferred into their new habitat because they can fall out of the bark or escape, thus there is a loss of inoculation material. In addition, early transfer permits farmers to get a second collection (scraping) of resin done during a dry season. Both effects enhance farmers' incomes.

3. Wider spacing: Traditionally, lac farmers inoculated the bark of trees growing at random in wasteland areas; but in recent years they have found that inoculating shrubs rather than trees gives them higher labor productivity. Shrubs can be grown much closer together than the trees that grow naturally. And shrubs’ multiple shoots have more bark surface area that can be inoculated than is available on trees. More resin can thus be harvested from shrubs in less time than when having to walk from tree to tree. So, shrubs have become the preferred plants for producing lac, and lac collectors plant them to be inoculated once they are mature, making lac production more intensive.

However, lac farmers understandably thought that having more shrubs per square meter would give them more bark area to exploit. However, once they understood SRI principles and rethought their practice, they concluded that they had been planting their shrubs too closely together. Through experimentation they saw that shrubs with more distance between them each put out more tillers, thus increased the inoculatable surface area of bark per square meter of land. By planting their shrubs farther apart, farmers could farm their lac insects more intensively.

Also, lac farmers found that more widely-spaced shrubs are healthier and can better support the insect parasites that are planted in their bark, presumably because the more widely-spaced shrubs grow larger and deeper root systems. This is important in semi-arid areas where lac is bring cultivated.

These were quite unexpected insights, coming from illiterate, impoverished farmers in a marginal area of Jharkhand state. This reinforced the idea that SCI, like SRI, should not be regarded as a technology, not as something material even though its practices and results are thoroughly material. Lac SCI exemplifies how new thinking and mindsets can make better use of available, even if meager, material assets. That morning’s field visit in Jharkhand was one of the most instructive encounters with on-the-ground realities in the whole SRI story.


Orchard SCI

Utterly unlike the sun-baked field in India where I learned about lac SCI was a dinner party in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I encountered research findings that suggested the relevance, or at least kinship, of SRI ideas for improving orchard management.

SRI was developed for growing rice, an annual crop.[69] It had been fairly easy to understand how SRI thinking could apply to other annual crops. But we have found that there could be some extension of these agronomic principles to the perennial cropping of fruit trees. What can be characterized as ‘orchard SCI’ was really an afterthought. But it raises an interesting extension in the SRI story worth noting.

From 2000 to 2002, the Agricultural and Rural Development program of the University of Pretoria invited me to visit once a year as an ‘extraordinary professor.’ This appointment did not carry any salary, but I was well rewarded by stimulating interaction with faculty and students and by fine hospitality. At one dinner party at the home of the program’s director, I happened to sit across the table from a professor of microbiology and plant pathology, Nico Labuschagne, and we discussed our mutual interests in how the microbial realm can contribute to raising agricultural productivity.

As the conversation evolved, Nico told me about thesis research done by one of his students on citrus orchard improvement. This was fascinating and consistent with some of the SRI observations and research that we had from Madagascar. Specifically, the student had studied the effects on navel orange production of deep-slit tillage in a 32-year-old orchard where yields had been declining. The orchard soil had increasing compaction and also problems with fungal root disease.

Recent research showed that simply doing deep ploughing (ripping) alongside the trees, not turning over the soil but simply pulling a long sharp metal blade through the soil (which took a lot of mechanical power) significantly improved tree crop productivity. A thin slice was cut into the soil, 80 cm deep and 1 meter from the row of trees on one side. The same operation was repeated 16 months later on the other side of the row.

This by itself, with no other interventions or investments, led to increases in the production from these trees, with 44% more yield and 52% greater fruit mass. This was achieved not by enriching the soil with inorganic fertilizer, but just by aerating the soil down to a deep level, about a meter.[70]

This kind of soil disturbance was not recommended as normal or frequent practice. Rather, it was remedial for compacted soil that constrains the growth of trees’ roots and affects whether air and water can flow more easily within the soil. That ‘active soil aeration’ improved the growth, health and production of plants, in part by mobilizing nutrients that were available in the soil through the enhanced activity of beneficial soil organisms. This corresponded to what we had been finding with rice production in Madagascar. This South African study showed how soil aeration can promote root growth as well as root health, something relevant for annual crop production, but also for perennials.

An appreciation of the value of active soil aeration associated with SRI and SCI, and of similarities between annual and perennial crop management, grew when our SRI network was joined by an organic farmer in Monroe, Maine, USA in 2013. Mark Fulford had learned about SRI during a visit to the Philippines and had contacted us at Cornell when he returned to the US. He steeped himself in the knowledge available from our website, and his application of these ideas to carrot production was reported in the section above on Vegetable SCI.

In 2014, Mark sent a draft paper titled: “Application of SCI Ideas to Orchard Management and Intensification.”[71] The paper began:

It turns out that the principles for the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), which have been extrapolated from the more specific System of Rice Intensification (SRI), may be applied to woody orchard crops (mutatis mutandis, changing those things that need to be changed).

One needs to start with the recognition that orchard crops, being perennials rather than annuals, can benefit from changes in the timing of longer-term crop cycles. Catching and capitalizing on opportunities to feed and prune fruit trees, synchronizing this with their periodicity, presents different challenges than managing annual crop cycles, something all-important. When the fruit buds for next year's tree crop will start to develop depends on the plant's nutritional supply this year, when the trees are already carrying that next year's crop.

Timing of operations, spacing, mulching, investing in soil health, and maintenance of biodiversity within the orchard are all agroecological practices, some beyond what is done with annual crops under SRI and SCI management. But the thinking is similar. Above-ground practices are carried out with regard for how they affect the life in the soil below, for example, seeking to maintain an optimal balance between bacterial and fungal populations. When trees are close-planted, it turns out that cutting out half of their branches can maintain as high a yield as before, having less pest and disease problems and higher quality of the fruit produced, which enhances the crop’s market value.

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We do not know in how far SCI principles can be applied to the management of perennial crops, but Anoop Tiwari in Shadol district of Madhya Pradesh state in India has reported getting 50% yield increases from tree crops there by following SCI principles: paying more attention to seedling roots, wider spacing between plants, enhancement of soil organic matter, surface mulching to conserve soil moisture, and also keeping soil temperatures within a range that is hospitable for beneficial soil biota.

The poverty-reduction program for which Anoop worked integrated tree culture (mango, guava, pomegranate, bananas, papaya) with cereal crops, with good results for the households participating. SRI and SCI experience does not prescribe any set methods for tree management, but rather gives impetus to experimentation with and modification of tree-growing practices.

As this section was being drafted, Mark Fulford sent a report on the diversification and intensification of coconut-based cropping systems in Philippines.[72] This booklet, published 15 years ago, considered how coconut and other production – annuals, perennials, fish, livestock – can be enhanced by planning for symbiosis and for inter-crop facilitation within smallholder systems, not looking upon the proximity of organisms and species through the mental lens of ‘competition.’ The report showed beneficial results from this kind of facilitation perspective.

Certainly there can be detrimental competition between plant and animal species, and not all complementarity will be beneficial. SCI like SRI encourages moving beyond closed-system thinking and zero-sum presuppositions, to see how agroecological insights with open-system and positive-sum premises can advance broader objectives, raising factor productivity and agricultural output, while serving also other values like gender equity and less labor drudgery.

Thinking about ‘orchard SCI’ is an appropriate bridge to the following chapters where we look at ways in which the SRI experience has been evolving and contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of how to improve people’s well-being and that of the natural environment in which people live. Much of the learning derived from SRI applications and extensions has been unplanned and unexpected, making this story more of a quest than building something preconceived from a blueprint.


[1] The Kadiramangalam version of SRI, which Gopal named for his village in Tamil Nadu, is described on the SRI website.

[2] Both dicotyledons and monocotyledons, which was surprising. Cotyledons are leaf-producing embryos within the seed. The latter category of plants, which start from a single cotyledon, includes all plants of the grass family (Gramineae or Poaceae), within which rice as well as most cereal plants are classified. These plants have multiple stalks or tillers and bushy roots, while dicotyledonous plants have a main stem (or trunk) and a main root. This is an important distinction in the plant kingdom, but SRI practices and principles apply to both of these groups of flowering plants (angiosperms).

[3] Anil Verma credits the Chief Minister of Bihar state, at that time Nitish Kumar, with coming up with this term. Anil has written that in October 2009, when Bihar state’s poverty-reduction program (BRLPS) organized a big meeting with members of women’s self-help groups, “An SRI stall [there] attracted the attention of the Chief Minister. He visited the stall before the inauguration of the meeting and spent most of his time at the fair at the SRI stall, where he took great interest in the manual on SRI Vidhi [SRI Precepts]. Addressing the meeting later, he referred to the System of Root Intensification as “khadyan samasya ka hal hi nikal ayega, as a solution to the food security issue in Bihar.” See ‘SRI in Bihar: From one to 350,000,’ Farming Matters, 29: 42-44 (2013).

[4] The first publication on SCI was T.K. Dash and A. Pal, Growing Crops with SRI Principles, SRI Secretariat, Livolink and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Bhubaneswar (2011). In 2013, a SRI-Rice monograph on SRI was published, The System of Crop Intensification: Agroecological Innovations for Improving Agricultural Production, Food Security, and Resilience to Climate Change (2013). It was subsequently co-published with the European Union’s Technical Centre for Agricultural and Technical Cooperation (CTA), Wageningen, Netherlands (2014) for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Island regions, and with the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) based in Mumbai for distribution in India (2016).

[5] Actually there was a precursor example of SFMI which I learned about two years later. In 2008, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Development in Addis Ababa, Sue Edwards, told a seminar about how five years previously, an elderly woman-farmer, Mama Yehanesu in Tigray province had gotten an incredible finger millet yield of 7.6 tonnes per hectare. This she had achieved by transplanting young millet seedlings widely spaced (25-30 cm) in soil provided with abundant compost, not by broadcasting teff seeds densely according to usual practice. Mama Yehanesu was already considered to be an outstanding and innovative farmer because her finger millet yield previously with standard methods was 2.8 tonnes, more than double the 1.3 tonne yield typical in her area. Reported in H. Araya, S. Edwards, A. Asmelash, H. Legasse, G.H. Zibelo, E Mohammed and S. Misgina, ‘SCI: Planting with space,’ Farming Matters, 29: 35-37 (2013).

[6] This visit was hosted by The Green Foundation and the Agriculture-Man-Environment Foundation based in Bangalore. For details on the Chinnikatti visit, see pages 26-29 of Report on SRI Status in the Indian States of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, October 5-8 and 14-17, 2006.

[7] Here is an extension bulletin on ‘stirrup hoe’ design and use.

[8]   When I inspected the yedekunte, I asked the farmers around me if this implement didn’t cut off the millet plants’ roots near the soil surface? “No problem,” was the quick response of one farmer: “My father always told me: if you cut one root, you get back ten more.”

[9] See Cultivating Finger Millet with SRI Principles: A Training Manual, put together by Kuntal Mukherjee and published by PRADAN and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (2012), based on farmer experience in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states. See also a document on SFMI published by the NGO PRAGATI from its work with thousands of farmers in Koraput district of Odisha state on adapting SRI ideas and methods to finger millet (2014).

[10] The experience of People’s Science Institute working with smallholders in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and extending into Madhya Pradesh is discussed in ‘Promoting SWI in the Mountain Farms,’ NewsReach, 9: 29-35, PRADAN, New Delhi (2009). From the outset, farmers reported seed saving, less lodging, and higher quality grain, as well as higher yields. See also A. Prasad, ‘Going against the grain: The system of rice intensification is being adapted to wheat – with similar good results,’ Outlook Business, Oct. 5-18 (2008), pp. 54-55; and R. Chopra and D. Sen, ‘Golden wheat becomes more golden: Extending SRI to wheat,’ LEISA India, 30–32 (2013).

[11] A Reuters report on the first (woman) farmer to use SWI methods in Bihar state reported almost a tripling of yield with a huge impact on her family’s welfare. Nita Bhalla, ‘New farming method boosts food output for the poor,’ Reuters-Thomson, March 30 (2008). SRI-Rice published an SWI manual prepared by Anil Verma for PRADAN, Cultivating Wheat with SRI Principles: A Training Manual (2012). This was translated from the original Hindi version by a PRADAN staff member who was doing a master’s degree at Cornell. The publication reported 6.5-8.0 tonne yields with good use of SWI practices, with yield up to 12.6 tonnes. The seed reduction of 80% was not quite as great as with SRI or SFMI. Costs of production per hectare were increased with SWI, but cost per kg of grain produced was lowered from 3.27 rupees per kg to 2.35 rupees per kg on average, a 28% reduction.

[12] An evaluation for the World Bank reported that in 2012, under the poverty-reduction program that it was supporting in Bihar, there were 91,289 farmers using SWI methods, getting an average yield increase of 72%. D. Behera, A.K. Chaudhury, V.K. Vutukutu, A. Gupta, S. Machiraju and P. Shah, Enhancing Agricultural Livelihoods through Community Institutions in Bihar, The World Bank, New Delhi (2013). This number of SWI farmers was only for the Bank-supported program and did not include many thousands more trained by government extension staff or by NGO personnel.

[13] See presentation by Anoop Tiwari, System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) in Madhya Pradesh, India (2009), which contains some dramatic pictures of the phenotypical differences in plant growth observed in the field.

[14] An interesting innovation for the conduct of agronomic research was that after the IARI scientists and PRADAN staff had agreed on the respective protocols for SWI and what represented IARI’s recommended practices, an experienced SWI farmer was brought from Bihar to New Delhi to manage the SWI trials according to the protocols. This ensured that SWI methods would be used appropriately since experiment-station laborers who had no familiarity with the new practices might perform them perfunctorily or incorrectly.

[15] S. Dhar, B.C. Barah, K. Vyas and N. Uphoff, ‘Comparing System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) with standard recommended practices in the northwestern plain zone of India,’ Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science, 62: 994-1006 (2015).

[16] This experience is reported on in P. Adhikari et al., ‘System of crop intensification for more productive, resource-conserving, climate-resilient, and sustainable agriculture: experience with diverse crops in varying agroecologies,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 16: 1-28 (2017). In Afghanistan, SWI promotion was started by FAO in 2011. By 2015, over 7,000 farmers from all wheat-growing regions of the country had been trained in the new methods. These were giving average yield increases of 42%, and because of lower costs of production, farmers’ net income was boosted by 83%.

[17] E. Styger and H. Ibrahim, The System of Wheat Intensification (SWI) Initial Testing by Farmers in Goundam and Dire, Timbuktu, Mali, 2009, report for Africare and USAID/Mali, Bamako.

[18] As reported in the reference cited in endnote 16.

[19] Our SRI colleague Willem Stoop has been working with a Dutch farmer, Kees Steendijk, who on his own has developed a wheat cropping system with many SWI elements: seed selection, much reduced plant population with wider spacing, enhanced soil organic matter, and attention to increasing the life in the soil. Kees has explained his highly-mechanized organic system of wheat production in the Netherlands in a YouTube video.

[20] But farmers’ initiatives are starting to be studied: Sofia Baltazar, Raphael Boutsen, Lieven Delanote, Vincent Delobel, Karel Dewaele, Willem Stoop and Marjolein Wisser, ‘Questioning seeding rates and its influence on phenotypic expression of wheat populations for participatory plant breeding: First findings from field research across organic farms in Belgium and the Netherlands,’ Organic Farming 5: 37–51 (2019).

[21] During the first year of IARI on-station trials, there was still some sensitivity within the Institute about its conducting them. When my wife Marguerite and I were in New Delhi in January 2012, our hosts felt constrained to ‘smuggle’ us onto the IARI research station at dusk, after its staff had left for the day, to give us a quick look at the newly-planted SWI plots.

[22] This is despite personal conversations about SRI with both the Director-General and Deputy Director-General of CIMMYT. It should be added, however, that a former DG of CIMMYT, Tim Reeves, after leaving the organization and becoming a consultant with FAO, became a helpful supporter of SRI.

[23] This is shown with pictures in Biksham Gujja, U.S. Natarajan and N. Uphoff, ‘The Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative,’ in P. Rott (ed.), Achieving Sustainable Cultivation of Sugarcane,’ Vol. 1, 45-76, Burleigh Dodds Publishing, Cambridge, UK (2018).

[24] This history is discussed in the preceding reference (endnote 23).

[25] The details of this first encounter with SRI are given on page 5-6 of a trip report at that time.

[26] When I met Reddy a few days later, he told me rather confidently that he was sure that he could improve upon this yield because this had been his first attempt with these methods. He said optimistically, not boastfully, that he thought he could reach 120 tonnes the next season. “Now that I know what I am doing.” The next year Shashi Bhushan told me subsequently that Reddy reached only 110 tonnes.

[27] A Dutch sugarcane plant physiologist had suggested half a century earlier that new sugarcane plants could be germinated from just a small volume of tissue including a single root primordium adhering to the bud. C. van Dillewijn, The Botany of Sugarcane, Chronica Botanica, NY (1952).

[28] See V. Shashi Bhushan, N. Uphoff, K. Suresh and M.S. Reddy, ‘Sugarcane Intensification System: An innovative method developed by farmers in Medak District,’ NewsReach, 9: 38-42, PRADAN, New Delhi (2009).

[29] More information on all this is given in the reference cited in endnote 30.

[30] Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative: Improving Sugarcane Cultivation in India: Training Manual (2009); WWF-ICRISAT project, Hyderabad, India:  SSI: Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative, AgSri, Hyderabad, India (2012). A video on SSI has been posted on YouTube by farmers in Salem District of Tamil Nadu which shows the steps so that the practices can be seen and understood even when the narration is in Tamil.

[31] AgSri Wins Millennium Award posting, Dec. 1, 2014. The Alliance includes India business and government organizations and also the British and US aid agencies (DFID and USAID).


[32] SiCAS: Sistema de Caña de Azucár Sostenible, AgSri, Hyderabad, India (2012).

[33] That it is becoming considered as a health food has pitted US and European consumers against poor Ethiopian households, with teff production now starting up in the US and elsewhere. Teff has higher levels of iron, zinc, calcium and copper than most other grains and also more Vitamin C which enhances the body’s absorption of these minerals. It is also relatively high in protein, about 12% (rice is about 8% protein), with a well-balanced set of amino acids.

     Because of its small size, teff is usually not milled, so most of its nutrients are retained, and there is high crude fiber content. Other qualities include a relatively low glycemic index (good for diabetics), relatively abundant fatty acids, and being gluten-free. K. Baye, Tefff: Nutritional Composition and Health Benefits. Working Paper #67, Ethiopian Development Research Institute, Addis Ababa, and International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC (2014). Note: The name is spelled variously with one ‘f’ or two ‘f’s.’ The former spelling is increasingly preferred as the plant’s Latin designation is Erogrostis tef, but here we use the more common spelling.

[34] SAA was a development initiative financed by a controversial Japanese billionaire, Ryoichi Sasakawa, whose money came from speedboat racing, shipbuildng and gambling proceeds. In 1986, in response to the Ethiopian famine that year, his Nippon Foundation together with Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center set up the Sasakawa Global 2000 program whose rice program Berhe was responsible for. 

[35] How the story got to this point is worth amplifying in an endnote because it is so improbable. An Indian agronomist, Dr. P.N. Ananth, who was director of the KVK at Mitraniketan in Kerala state and the first person to introduce SRI in that state, had taken an advisory position in Addis Ababa with an Indian consulting firm, SRI Associates. (This was named not for our SRI, but for an Indian guru, Sri Sai Baba.)

     Ananth got his firm to invite me to come and talk about SRI if I could cover my expenses to Addis Ababa, offering to put me up at the firm’s guest house. I had planned to participate in a Conservation Agriculture conference at FAO in Rome in July 2008. One of SRI’s few ‘angels,’ David Galloway living in Canada (Chapter 34), agreed to pay for the additional airfare to travel onward to Addis. This is the back story behind how the idea of STI took form with leadership from Tareke Berhe.

[36] A report on the visit to Ethiopia in 2008 is available on-line, as well as this powerpoint.

[37] Tareke had impeccable credentials as a ‘Green Revolutionary.’ Coming from an Ethiopian village, he went through a USAID-funded high school (managed by Oklahoma State University) and did an agricultural BSc degree at Alemaya, the leading agricultural university in Ethiopia. After working at the leading agricultural research station (Debre Zeit), he was given an FAO fellowship to do research on wheat breeding at CIMMYT, the wheat and maize improvement center in Mexico, studying under Nobel-laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug. Subsequently, he did MSc and PhD degrees at Washington State University and the University of Nebraska. Then for the next 25 years he had worked with a succession of CGIAR, USAID and SAA programs in African countries introducing improved varieties and modern technology. But he was always concerned with soil health, and did not forget his rural roots.  

[38] T. Berhe and N. Zena, Results in a Trial of System of Tefff Intensification (STI) at Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, unpublished paper circulated at seminar presentation, Cornell University, July 23, 2009.


[39] T. Berhe, Recent Developments in Tefff: Ethiopia’s Most Important Cereal and Gift to the World, powerpoint presentation, Cornell University, July 23, 2009, slide 22. With copper soil amendments, the STI yield reached 7.92 tonnes per hectare; with zinc amendments, 8.14 tonnes; and with both together, 8.59. With a compound fertilizer used in Mali, Sukube, containing also the micronutrient manganese, the yield reached 8.78 tonnes.

     Tareke, who had grown up on a farm in Ethiopia helping his father raise teff, and who had learned all of the standard methods for measuring yield at CIMMYT and the University of Nebraska, said that he had never seen such teff plants before in his life and was quite confident about the measurements. But these results were so great that he did not want to publicize them. Why? Because nobody who had not seen the plants and done the measurements would believe them.

[40] The president of Oxfam America, at the time, Ray Offenheiser, had agreed to provide US$ 40,000 for a systematic evaluation in India of SRI’s drought-resistance as there were serious rainfall deficits in India that year. But Oxfam India which would have to expedite the grant was organizationally unable to take on this responsibility. So, Ray agreed to reallocate the funding to Ethiopia, which it was shared between Tareke’s STI initiative and Sue Edwards’ SCI work on ‘planting with space’ being carried out through the Institute for Sustainable Development based in Addis Ababa.

[41] The ATA was established with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and even though the Foundation was not interested in SRI (Chapter 23), it approved of this STI work, with some modifications. Gates Foundation agricultural program officer Roy Steiner twice when we met a professional meetings told me proudly that the Foundation was working with SRI ideas in Ethiopia.

[42] When Tareke and I first discussed STI, we agreed that one of the goals should be to get enough teff produced, and its price reduced enough, so that Ethiopian families would not have to bear the cultural cost and indignity of not being able to eat the staple food which is most prized and appreciated.

[43] T. Berhe, The Concept of TIRR, powerpoint presentation for Agricultural Transformation Agency, Addis Ababa (2014).

[44] Agricultural Transformation Agenda: Progress Report Covering 2011/15 in the GTP I Phase. Agricultural Transformation Agency, Addis Ababa (2015). See Tareke Berhe, Z. Gebretsadik and N. Uphoff, ‘Intensification and semi-intensification of teff production in Ethiopia: Applications of the system of crop intensification,’ CAB Reviews 12:054 (2017).

[45] J. Vandercasteelen, M. Dereje, B. Minten and A.S. Taffesse, Row Planting Tefff in Ethiopia: Impacts on Farm-Level Productivity and Labor Allocation. ESSP Working Paper 92. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC (2016). Ethiopian colleagues in the ATA disagree with the ways in which this study was done and with its conclusion that row planting does not increase yield and instead increases labor.

[46] ATA analysis attributed 40% of the increase in production to the changes that were made in crop management. Reference in endnote 44.

[47] Information is given on these yield increases with SCI methods in Himachal Pradesh and Assam states of India in P. Adhikari et al., ‘System of crop intensification for more productive, resource-conserving, climate-resilient, and sustainable agriculture: Experience with diverse crops in varying agroecologies,’ International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 16 (2017), pp. 9-10. A People’s Science Institute powerpoint gives details on the SCI methods that have been used to get these results from maize.

          Trial results of SRI methods for maize, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun, India (2011)



An innovative extension of SRI ideas to increase maize production in Madagascar by the record-setting farmer there (Ralalarison, Chapter 10) is reported on the SRI-Rice website.

[48] P.C. Satpathy, ‘The System of Mustard Intensification,’ NewsReach, 9: 43-48, PRADAN, New Delhi, India (2009).

[49] Cultivating Rapeseed/Mustard with SRI Principles: A Training Manual, PRADAN, Gaya, prepared by Anil Verma and P. Gora (2012); and Promotion of Farmers’ Schools, Training and Demonstration on Enhancing Rapeseed Productivity through System of Root Intensification (SRI) Method of Crop Cultivation in Gaya, ATMA, Gaya, with PRADAN, Gaya (2012).

[50] Mustard plots are usually less than one hectare because small farmers in Bihar have so little land. Anil Verma, PRADAN’s team leader in Gaya who spearheaded the SMI work along with SRI and SWI, sent an excited email April 14, 2011: “Dear Norman, A government delegation consisting of government officers and a specialist measured the yield of rapeseed [on a farmer’s plot grown with SCI principles and practices]. The yield came out to be 4.8 t/hectare. The usual yield is only 1 t/hectare. The government is quite excited about this. The highest officer of Department of Agriculture, i.e., Agriculture Production Commissioner, visited [plots with] rapeseed and wheat done under SCI/SRI. A large number of officials are now visiting wheat and rapeseed plots. Regards, Anil.” As with SRI in Ranomafana, there were four-fold increases with SMI.

[51] ‘Unprecedented Growth Achieved Using SRI Techniques for Growing Mustard (SMI),’ presentation by Rajesh Tripathi for Extension Reform Program (ATMA), Department of Farmer Welfare and Agriculture Development, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh (2014).For a case study of what these impacts mean at the household level, see Anoop Tiwari’s report, ‘Applying SRI principles in mustard cultivation’ (2015).

[52]System of Root Intensification increases mustard yields,’ India Today, August 31, 2017. The six states are Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan.

[53] The World Bank report cited in endnote 12 above reports that in Bihar state, households using SCI methods to grow oilseeds (mostly mustard) had 50% higher yield and 93% more net income per hectare.

[54] See reference to World Bank study in endnote 12.

[55] Similar enhancement of yield and value for carrots has been recorded by Asif Sharif in Punjab, Pakistan as seen in the next chapter. Mark’s carrot production is described on the SRI-Rice website, and he has discussed his applications of SCI to vegetable production on a YouTube video.

[56] See report on this methodology by Gerald Aruna on the SRI-Rice website.

[57] See Adhikari et al., cited in endnote 16.

[58] A good example would be the development of transplanted pigeon pea (red gram) through an agricultural extension center’s work with farmers in Bidar district of Karnataka state. Red Gram Transplanting Technology, ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bidar (2015), with ICAR summary. Average yield with the new methods inducing larger, deeper root growth was 3.48 tonnes per hectare compared with 1.55 tonnes using farmers’ usual methods. There was also greater drought resistance and more resistance to pod borer. On prior work with SCI for pigeon pea in Karnataka, see this 2009 AMEF report; see also report in 2013 on use of these methods in Tamil Nadu state.

    A report from Madhya Pradesh state on pigeon pea improvement in the village of Bargi near Jabalpur tells about a farmer there who tried SCI ideas with a native landrace in 2016. Shyamlal Tiwari planted the seeds individually in polythene bags with 50% black soil and 50% vermicompost. (About one-third did not survive, apparently due to overwatering.) At 43 days after sowing, the seedlings were transplanted into a field at a plant-to-plant distance of 1 meter and with 1.5 meters between rows.

Intercultivation (weeding between rows) was done starting shortly after transplanting and up to 60 days after sowing, breaking up the soil between the plants and burying weeds as much as possible. Top buds were nipped off to encourage branching and bushier configuration of the plants once they had reached a height of 60 cm. No intercropping was done, and no manures were applied; there was one spraying of neem oil (1:15 dilution) to keep pod borers away, and one protective irrigation was given in November, before harvesting in December.

    The plants grew up to 1.8 m, with an average of 300 g of seed from each plant. The harvest of 220 kg from the field represented a yield of about 1.8 tonnes per hectare, compared to a usual farmer yield of 65 kg, or 0.55 tonnes per hectare, less than one-third as much as with SCI-adapted methods. The grain generated US$ 185 in the local market, and the plant stalks were used for firewood or construction. “The plot was visited by numerous farmers and Agriculture/KVK staff in the area and has generated considerable interest to take up SCI-pigeon pea in the following season.” (personal communication from Soumik Banerjee, independent researcher, Godda, Jharkand, India).

[59] See this 2014 report in The Hindu on ‘system of pulse intensification’ in Tamil Nadu state.

[60] See the World Bank publication on Bihar referenced in endnote 21. Under the Jeevika poverty-reduction program, it is reported that in 2012 there were 41,645 households getting these results using SCI methods to grow pulses on 15,590 hectares. A 2017 report from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development in Tamil Nadu reported that in 2016-17 the area under System of Pulse Intensification (SPI) cultivation in 2,000 villages was 125,000 hectares.

[61] We were attending the 3rd national symposium held at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University organized by the WWF-ICRISAT project, and the president of the Association made a very impressive presentation. He invited us to come visit Thambal as soon as the symposium ended. On the Thambal SRI farmer organization, see page 7 of this SRI Newsletter.

[62] STI – Sustainable Turmeric Initiative: An Innovative Method for Cultivation of Turmeric (Cucurma longa),  SRI-Rice, Cornell University (2012).

[63] Cumin was started from seedlings instead of by broadcasting, cutting farmers’ seed cost by 95%. Plant biomass grown per m2 was increased by 40%, and seeds per plant by 125%. The farmer’s yield was 65% greater than on his control plot, and 83% higher than the national average yield for cumin.

     The coriander SCI experiments involved direct-seeding rather than transplanting, given the different natures of the plants, in rows 50 cm apart. The seed rate as cut by 50%, but this gave 10% more production (and 16% higher grain weight). During the growing season, some of the coriander plants were harvested and sold fresh in the market for additional income. The thinning out within rows encouraging more growth in the remaining plants.

     See Gurpreet Singh blogs: ‘Beyond apprehension: An experience of system of cumin (Cuminium cyminum) intensification’ (2015); and ‘Making lemonade from thinning: An experience of system of coriander (Coriandrum sativum) intensification’ (2015).

[64] See pages 10-13 of my trip report to Cambodia in 2005 for information on the village and our discussion.

[65] See pages 15-16 of this trip report from 2006. Among other things we learned that 240 of the 274 households in the village were now using SRI methods. Numerous initiatives like savings clubs, fish production, and a youth organization were complementing the SRI improvements.

[66] This is explained more in the Wikipedia entry on Lac.

[67] See trip report from this visit, especially pages 7-9.

[68] This little-known agriculturally-based industry was analyzed by Binju Abraham in his master’s paper, ‘A value-chain analysis of the lac sub-sector and strategies to improve incomes of lac growers with suggestions for program expansion in the poverty context of Jharkhand state in India,’ Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (2012). Binju whom we met in the section above on finger millet SFMI had helped get started this SRI application to lac production in Jharkhand state before he came to Cornell on a Ford Foundation scholarship to do a master’s degree in international development (see picture on pages 78-79 of this Ford Foundation report).

[69] Unless farmers ratoon their rice crop for two or more seasons, as discussed briefly in Chapter 9 in reporting on SRI research in Indonesia.

[70] Nico Labuschagne and Deon Joubert, ‘Profile modification as a means of soil improvement: Promoting root health through deep tillage,’ in the book discussed in Chapter 5, Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems, CRC Press (2006).

[71] Application of SCI Ideas to Orchard Management / Intensification: An Orchardist’s Choreography of Space x Timing x Pruning x Soil Fertility, posted on SRI-Rice website.

[72] Winfried Scheewe, Coconut Farm Diversification: Ideas and Considerations, Group of Advocates for Sustainable Agriculture, Surigao del Sur, Philippines (2003).


PICTURE CREDITS: Norman Uphoff (2); Alipati Satyanarayana (India); Binju Abraham (3) (PRADAN); Dan Taylor; Erika Styger (2); Mark Fulford (USA); Alipati Satyanarayana (India); Biksham Gujja (2) (AgSRI); Rena Perez (Cuba); Tareke Berhe (3) (Ethiopia); Debashish Sen (India); Norman Uphoff and Marguerite Uphoff (Cornell); Mark Fulford (2) (USA); Gerald Aruna (2) (Sierra Leone); Gurpreet Singh (India); Sue Edwards (Ethiopia); Norman Uphoff; Mark Fulford (2) (USA)

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