One of the perks of the job is the opportunity to experience real work. This is a field under Pasali farmer trainer supervision. The owners allotted three small fields for System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method. The rest of their fields are hybrid mixes done the green revolution way. SRI is in many ways the complete opposite of that method.
MAIN SRI TENETS
1. One seedling in a whole
SRI says you plant your ONE seedling per hole. Farmers usually put several seedlings in one whole. Once you see how tiny that seedling is – looks like a single stalk of chives – you will really wonder if that tinie thing will grow into 100 – 200 tillers (stalks) of rice. And yet, trust in your babies is something you really must do.
2. Plant one seedling per space of 25×25
The distance between seedlings should be 25×25 centimeters. The more space inbetween, the larger the plant can become, and produces more tillers. In Cambodia, where thousands of farmers have already converted to SRI, the spacing is meticulously kept, but filipino farmers have a hard time following this rule. The inorganic pesticide way dictates that you put several seeds in one hole in rows close to another. In this particular field, spaces were sometimes as small as 10×10.
The difference in produce varies per field, but an SRI seedling – if cared for as the meticulous Cambodians do – can produce up to 200 tillers, while the current method produces 40. Harvest output now are about the same, but 1) SRI production costs are significantly less, and 2) adjusting with each cropping the spacing, water, nutrients and weeding brought higher yields in other rice farming nations, so why not here as well? But if farmers don’t keep the distance, they will end up producing less. “But they should try first as wide space as possible, then after the first cropping, if they discover that the plants have reached their full number of tillers and there is still space inbetween, farmers are free to make the space smaller the next cropping,” says farmer technician Mcdonnell Ty.
3. Rice is not an aquatic plant
SRI teaches that rice plants are regular plants, not aquatic plants. So you really can’t submerge them under water – they drown. This is a major concern of the farmers who strongly believe the plant’s aquatic nature. They may practice the SRI points, but even Pasali farmer trainers don’t follow this water management rule. This is a major concern of Pasali leaders: if even your own trainers don’t trust the less water rule. The consequence is drastic though: if plants are drowned then the number of tillers it should produce as SRI indicates, will be significantly less.
Project manager Nonoy Ty laments this fact: “Of the 33 farmers currently practicing SRI, only a handful really follow this water rule. Now its about the number of tillers vary from 70 to 120, but if the water rule is implemented this could reach up to 200.”
By May we will see if the owners of this field dare to NOT flood their fields.