Science, practice and the System of Rice Intensification in Indian agriculture
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is claimed to be a novel approach to rice cultivation that is both more productive and more sustainable than conventional methods. Such claims have been challenged or dismissed by many rice scientists, however. Despite the lack of clear and unequivocal endorsement by science, SRI seems to have spread widely and rather quickly to many rice-growing regions, including various areas of India. This paper discusses how and considers why SRI seems to have attracted the support of diverse stakeholders in Indian rice farming. As such, the SRI phenomenon should be taken seriously. Nevertheless, many scientific questions remain to be answered, concerning the biophysical mechanisms involved in SRI and their effects on plant performance and crop yields, the true spread of SRI practices among farmers and the system’s impacts on farm livelihoods, rice production and resource use. Indian enthusiasm for SRI implies a level of dissatisfaction with conventional approaches to rice intensification and a demand for new methods that can address the perceived problems and challenges of agriculture in the future.
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