Sri agro practices command higher market price
Changing the present agricultural practices in the country for the
better is difficult, since our agro researchers and bureaucrats serve
multinational agro chemical companies, said Minister of Nation Building,
He was addressing a seminar on sustainable livelihood and
eco-friendly farming organised by the Sri Network Sri Lanka in
collaboration with the Gemidiriya Foundation.
The Minister said that the Sri method of paddy farming has shown very
impressive results. Sharing his experience as a farmer who practises the
Sri method in paddy farming, he said that it increases the yield by 50%
and cuts fertiliser and agrochemical usage by over 50%.
Since chemical fertiliser prices are on the increase due to
increasing crude oil prices the fertiliser subsidy is not sustainable.
We have to find alternatives but due to the red tape in agriculture
extension services and research institutions it is difficult to change
the present paddy farming practices which depend highly on agro
Officials work in the interests of multinational companies and not
for the farmers or national interests. Therefore, popularising the Sri
method has to move from bottom to top, he said.
The seminar was organised to share the scientific evidence of the
success of the Sri method. Representatives of NGOs that are promoting
the Sri method in the livelihood improvement of poor farmers
participated in the seminar.
The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Norman Uphoff, Professor
of the Government and International Agriculture, Cornell University, USA
under "Sri as an international phenomenon: what has been learned in the
Prof. Uphoff said that the Sri method is still being tested. With
increasing crude oil prices the situation will change and farmers will
be compelled to choose the Sri method. Showing results in various parts
in the Asian region, Prof. Uphoff said that the Sri method is suitable
for poor farmers to increase their productivity.
The Sri method or System of Rice Intensification (SRI) originated in
Madagascar is now practised by farmers in 19 countries. Sri practices
lead to healthier, more productive soil and plants by supporting greater
root growth and by nurturing the abundance and diversity of soil
The agro-ecological principles that contribute to Sri effectiveness
have good scientific bases. The Sri concepts and methods have been
successfully adapted to upland unirrigated rice, and they are now being
extrapolated to other crops such as millet, wheat and sugarcane.
Sri does not require the purchase of new seeds or the use of new
high-yielding varieties. Although the highest yields with Sri have been
obtained from improved varieties, most traditional or local varieties of
rice respond well to Sri practices and command a higher market price.
While chemical fertiliser and agrochemicals can be applied with Sri,
their use is not required as organic materials (compost, manure or any
decomposed vegetation) can give good or even better results at low cost.
Farmers report that when the Sri methods are used correctly, rice
plants are better able to resist damage from pests and diseases,
reducing or eliminating the need for agrochemical protection.
Since the plants are reduced, seed cost is cut by 80-90%, and because
paddy fields are not kept continuously flooded, there are water savings
of 25% to 50%.
However, the cessation of flooding means that increased weeding is
required. If this is done with soil-aerating implements such as a
rotating hoe, this cost has a benefit of enhanced crop production, Prof.
Gemidiriya CEO Dr.Gamini Batuwitage said that it would not be rude to
say that officials of the Agricultural Department are oppressive.
Compared to other countries who were in the same position we are ages
behind and our productivity is the lowest.
The attitude of the officials has to be changed and they should see
the outside world. Indian agricultural officials who learnt the Sri
technology in 1999 from Sri Lanka have now extended the Sri cultivation
to 430,000 ha.
The Secretary of Agriculture in India fully supports field testing
and promotion of the Sri method in India. Lankan irrigation engineers
agreed to promote the Sri method considering low water consumption and
But Agricultural Department officials warned them not to promote Sri,
Dr. Batuwitage said.