The Madagascar Method has received a lot of applaud all round the agricultural community. It is actually System of Rice Intensification (SRI). It was developed in Madagascar, hence the name. Now, let's have a look at what exactly this method is.
SRI is a farming technique with the objective of increasing the yield of rice. This is a labor-intensive, low-water technique that uses young seedlings, which are spaced singly and hand-weeded with specific tools.
The technique was developed by the French Jesuit Father Henri de Laulanie in 1983. He lived in Madagascar. At that time, the technique was not tested completely. Only with the help of Professor Norman Uphoff, serving as the Director of International Institute for Food Agriculture and Development at the Cornell University, did the technique spread to other rice growing areas of the world and this happened years after the technique was developed.
Principles of SRI
The technique includes applying a minimum quantity of water and transplanting the young seedlings individually in a square pattern.
Concepts and techniques used in SRI continue to evolve as growers in rainfed areas adapt SRI. At times, growers substitute transplanting with direct seeding.
SRI central principles as per Cornell researchers are:
- Keeping rice field soils moist instead of irrigating them continuously. This minimizes anaerobic conditions and improves root growth. It also promotes diversity and growth of aerobic soil microbes.
- Planting rice plants singly and in wide spacing to allow better growth of roots and canopy. This ensures good photosynthesis in leaves.
- Transplanting rice seedlings when they are very young, less than 15 days old and have only a couple of leaves. This should be done carefully, quickly, and in a shallow manner. This avoids root trauma and reduces transplant shock to seedlings.
What proponents of SRI say
SRI proponents claim that SRI or Madagascar Method of rice cultivation saves water, decreases cost of production, increases yield, and increases income. These benefits have been seen in 40 countries where this technique is practiced.
What critics of SRI say
SRI critics are of the view that claims of increase in yield through SRI are because they have not been evaluated scientifically. According to them, the methodology lacks detail, especially when done as trial. A few critics are of the view that Madagascar Method is unique to Madagascar soil conditions. It may not suit soil conditions prevalent in other parts of the world.
In India, SRI is catching up in states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where farmers experience drought-like conditions. According to reports, farmers using SRI technique got higher yields in their fields than that obtained through traditional techniques.
Interestingly, they used this technique, which is specific to rice, in crops like pulses, rajma, and maize.