Record breaking rice crops using regular open pollinated rice with manure and aeration near the rootzone!
For many westerners, including many western journalists, it’s difficult to separate the concept of “progress” from its inevitable modifier, “technological.” SRI may not be technology-based, but it’s science-based and sophisticated. It’s also continually field tested and improved through farmers’ own feedback. It’s exactly the kind of flexible, responsive system you’d demand from any truly sustainable agriculture — as opposed to the regimented, top-down application of chemical- and biotech-based approaches.
Plain old western snobbery shouldn’t be discounted, either. As agronomist Anil Verma put it in the Guardian article:
If any scientist or a company came up with a technology that almost guaranteed a 50% increase in yields at no extra cost they would get a Nobel prize. But when young Biharian farmers do that they get nothing.
Does SRI need more research? Absolutely. Can it be adapted to large-scale monocrop agriculture? Probably not. But that’s exactly the kind of agriculture that’s failing us and needs to be reassessed entirely.
Where does SRI go from here? In India, at least, Bihar alone is investing $50 million in expanding adoption. However, the Guardian reports that “Western governments and foundations are holding back, preferring to invest in hi-tech research.”
Meanwhile, Monsanto shows no signs of slowing down: Indications are that it will win its patent case before the Supreme Court and gain virtual total control of its seeds. This will enable it to continue charging inflated prices for a technology that provides modest yield increases, if any, and certainly nothing close to the 30-percent increase many agronomists are praying for.
It’s always possible we’ll wake up to the successes being pioneered by the unlikeliest of subjects — subsistence farmers in the far east. Until then, Monsanto’s technology-driven vision of agriculture is winning here in the west.