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Rice Intensification Helps Poor Farmers Grow Rice Sustainably

6/17/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: rice, water, yields, farmers, environment

About a third of the world’s population depends on rice for sustenance or livelihood, but production is falling short. To meet growing demand, rice production must increase by 30 to 40 percent in the next 25 years. We recently learned of a smart new agricultural innovation that could alleviate the planetary damage that growing vast amounts of the water-intensive crop could cause.

Rice production is falling short. Photo Courtesy Lotus Foods. 

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), first developed in Madagascar by a Jesuit priest, uses less water and fewer seedlings to produce 50 to 100 percent more rice.

Typically, three- to six-week-old rice seedlings are cultivated closely together in flooded fields, which can use up to 5,000 liters of water—or about the daily water needs of one person in India for four months. With SRI, farmers plant seedlings that are less than two weeks old in unflooded fields, spaced farther apart. Because only the area around the roots needs to be moist, SRI eliminates the need to flood the paddy fields, reducing water use by 25 to 50 percent. This cultivation method also uses 85 to 90 percent fewer seeds, making it easier and cheaper for poor farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America to grow rice.

You can support this great work in a delicious and easy way. Rice distributor Lotus Foods supports farmers using SRI and sells their rice in the United States. Indonesian Volcano Rice is a blend of brown and red rice that’s high magnesium and zinc, Madagascar Pink has a tropical, spicy taste, and  Cambodian Mekong Flower Rice has a floral aroma and a nutty flavor.

Bon appétit.

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