Cultivating paddy - the SRI way
Nation Building Minister Salinda Disanayake
Sri Lanka was known to be a country self-sufficient in food as we had
a good agricultural background. Fortunately everyone has realized about
the value of agriculture for the development of the country. More than
70 percent of Sri Lankans earn their living from farming.
Of them, 56 percent of people are engaged in paddy cultivation. Most
of them have to face lot of difficulties when growing paddy.
They have problems of land, seeds, water, fertilizer, production
cost, sales and profit. Many farmers all over Asia have already
identified low-input, sustainable solutions to the problem. One simple
method that boosts the rice yield at a lower cost is originated outside
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) developed in the late 1980s
in Madagascar, has been spreading to other parts in Africa and Asia.
Nation Building Minister Salinda Disanayake who introduced the SRI
system to Sri Lanka spoke to The Daily News on the benefits of the new
“As a farmer I am interested in using organic fertilizer. Today, many
people are suffering from varies diseases like diabetes and kidney
diseases. The main reason for this is use of chemical fertilizer.
Sri Lankans earn only subsistence in farming. As the production cost
is very high they couldn’t earn much profit. When I was searching for
methods of using organic fertilizer for paddy cultivation, I heard that
Madagascar farmers were using a new method of paddy cultivation without
using chemical fertilizer. SRI was developed nearly 20 years ago by
Father Henri de Laulanie, a Jesuit priest who worked with farmer
communities in Madagascar from 1961 until his death in 1995.
SRI paddy field
Ploughing. Pictures google.com
He promoted the use of organic compost over chemical fertilizer, so
that poor and rich farmers alike could practise SRI. Despite its early
start in Madagascar, SRI had its roots in other countries since 2000. In
1997, Norman Uphoff, a political scientist and director of the
International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development at Cornell
University in Ithaca, New York introduced this system to Asian
countries,” he said.
He explained the method of applying SRI. Firstly, seedlings are
transplanted in 10 days after germination, singly as opposed to two to
three seedlings, and spaced up to six times apart compared to
This represents a substantial saving on seeds, up to ten-fold or more
in some cases. The increased spacing has the effect of encouraging
tillers or side shoots to develop quickly, giving more rice-forming
shoots per plant.
Secondly, the fields are kept moist during the most of the growing
season instead of being flooded continuously.
This saving on water is particularly important to areas experiencing
water scarcity and prevents from being damaged due to salination that
accompanies over-irrigation. It also encourages vigourous root
development, which in turn promotes more vigourous growth of the rice
Thirdly, no herbicides are used. Weeding is done with a simple rotary
hoe, which returns the weeds to the soil as green manure. This financial
saving is offset by increased labour, but labour shortage is seldom a
problem for farmers in the Third World, and weeding becomes less arduous
in successive years. Giving up herbicides is a health bonus for all
concerned: the farm worker most of all, and the consumer; and there is
no pollution of the environment and ground water.
Fourthly, no mineral fertilizers are used, only liberal application
of organic compost.
Difference between SRI and non SRI plants. Right - SRI
This financial saving is accompanied by an improvement to the quality
and fertility of soil, reducing runoff and improving its water-retaining
He said: “I personally tested SRI in my own paddy field of a little
more than two acres for four seasons, using seeds of various varieties.
I got the highest yield of 17 tons per hectare with BG358, a variety
developed by the Sri Lankan paddy researchers.
Even with local varieties such as Rathhel and Pachchaperumal, which
usually yield much lower harvest as two tons per hectare, an impressive
yield of eight tons per hectare and 13 tons per hectare was obtained.
I became the third person who reaped the highest harvest in the
world. We can apply this method to cultivate sugar cane and kurakkan