The “International Rice Conference” in Singapore and the “International Workshop to Enhance Cooperation and Sharing among SRI National Networks” in Malaysia
The IRC is took place in Singapore, October 14-17 at the Marina Bay Sands and the Workshop was held at the The Leverage Business Hotel-Skudai, Johor Bahru, Malaysia on the 18th-19th of October.
A Very Special Thanks to Oxfam for making the SRI Rice booth possible at the IRC
At the IRC Stephen Leinau made a presentation on “Reducing Injuries and Increasing Yields for Smallholder Women Rice Farmers through Additive Manufacturing and the Design, Modification and Testing of Rotors for use with SRI Weeders” and made a presentation on “The Future Guardians of Rice: Bali, World Heritage, and the Next Generation of Farmers” on behalf of the paper’s four authors; Wiwik Dharmiasih, Micah Fisher, Lucy Fisher and Stephen Leinau. http://ricecongress2018.irri.org
At the Malaysian meeting as part of the “HIGHLIGHTS OF GLOBAL INITIATIVES” Stephen discussed the development of an international SRI Equipment Network.
What is Conservation Agriculture (CA)?
CA is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil’s structure, composition and natural biodiversity. Despite high variability in the types of crops grown and specific management regimes, all forms of conservation agriculture share three core principles. These include:
- maintenance of permanent or semi-permanent soil cover (using either a previous crop residue or specifically growing a cover crop for this purpose);
- minimum soil disturbance through tillage (just enough to get the seed into the ground) ;
- regular crop rotations to help combat the various biotic constraints;
- supports soil health and the rich natural ecosystem
CA also uses or promotes where possible or needed various management practices listed below:
- utilization of green manures/cover crops (GMCC’s) to produce the residue cover;
- no burning of crop residues;
- integrated disease and pest management;
- controlled/limited human and mechanical traffic over agricultural soils.
When these CA practices are used by farmers one of the major environmental benefits is reduction in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But they also reduce the power/energy needs of farmers who use manual or animal powered systems.
From the Conservation Agriculture Knowledge Portal at Cornell University
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations David R. Montgomery, 2012
This is where many people begin their experience with CA
Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it’s everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it’s no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth’s soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations. From the Preface
- Video presentation on DIRT by David Montgomery: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ1ALlfMtUk
The Conservation Agriculture Group at Cornell University
This site maintains a very diverse international resource for CA. Academic articles, international groups, monthly news, upcoming conferences, the Two-wheel Tractor Newsletter and much more is available at this knowledge portal/website. It is an excellent first stop for up to date CA resources and news.
This organization and their website has excellent information, including videos, equipment, conference information and presentations as well as links to a very large number of regional CA groups.
Dirt First, a renegade soil scientist is transforming American agriculture, Kristin Ohlson, in Orion Magazine, 2016
In a very accessible way this Orion magazine article by Kristion Ohlson tells the story of the critical importance of soil health,.
Thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices―and, especially, modern industrial agriculture―have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world’s soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere, and even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, it would continue warming the planet. In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and bestselling author Kristin Ohlson makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for “our great green hope”―a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon―and potentially reverse global warming. From the Amazon review: The Soil Will Save Us
Landscapes Transformed: The History of Conservation Tillage and Direct Seeding, edited by C. Wayne Lindwall and Berie Sonntag
Jeff Esdaile’s Two-Wheel Tractor Newsletter
There is a wealth of very creative mechanization for farmers who have access to two wheel drive tractors. The site is hosted by the Cornell Conservation Agriculture website.
Roller/Crimper Designs for Cover Crops Management on Different Farm Scales Using Conservation Practices, Ted S. Kornecki, Agricultural Engineer, USDA, 2014
This is good example of much needed CA equipment being scaled down in size and weight. Test results are presented very clearly.
Here is a fun example of citizen science and a good measure of soil health that children can dig into. One of Earth Link’s first projects was an environmental group for high school students and as one of our activities we sold worms.
Three images of the “Jua Kali Planter” from Earth Links’ coming open source equipment database
Earth Links is working on a database and website for small-holder farmers who need well designed, tested, and very inexpensive tools that can be be construct by local blacksmiths or manufactured regionally. Designs will be available as CAD files, PDFs, photos and videos.
Earth Links is working towards the release of our “Open Source” database and website for small-holder rice farmers in 2018. With CAD files, free CAD software and easy to share PDFs of well used and tested equipment designs, we want to help facilitate the adoption of the System of Rice Intensification, SRI, in rice growing regions around the world.
A growing number of people are interested in helping resource-limited farmers improve their living conditions and have marveled at the improved yields of the System of Rice Intensification. Using less water and seeds, this method has been adopted in an ever-increasing number of rice-growing communities around the world. SRI’s combination of synergistic practices including: irrigating by alternative wetting and drying, healthy soils, wide plant spacing, and early transplantation helps create higher yields, with less water use and much less seed. Some institutions and researchers have trouble understanding this “organic growth” – both of the plants and the larger number of farmers using SRI.
It is interesting to consider SRI techniques and its adoption by 10,000,000 small farmers (users) in terms of the movements of the computer age called “open source” (in which computing source code is made freely and openly available to programmers, developers, and users to cooperatively develop and use). This helps to understand SRI often spreads from farmer to farmer, and how it can change to meet local conditions. And how the necessary tools, field markers, weeders and harvesters, are adapted to local conditions with locally available materials.
Variations of the rotors for turning weeds under and aerating the soil.
SRI methods have primarily been developed and disseminated outside mainstream agricultural institutions and corporations, do not rely on hybrid/GMO seeds or petrochemical fertilizers, but rather encourage and rely on farmer-led research and experimentation, indigenous knowledge, as well as scientific studies and the assistance and training of agricultural professionals. As Indian researcher Dr. Shambhu Prasad has recently argued,
“SRI shows how a less hierarchical and less linear architecture of innovation has enabled a new ‘knowledge commons’ to emerge in Indian agriculture, contributing substantially to household-level food security, also enabling farmers to cope with vulnerabilities.”
This past January, Dr. Prasad spoke at the 13th biennial conference for the International Association for the Study of the Commons in Hyberabad, India, describing the “agroecological innovations” shared through the Internet and other digital social networks by Indian SRI practitioners. Conference attendee and author David Bollier reported on the talk in a recent blog post:
Rather than adopt the farming practices of the conventional market and the knowledge paradigm of the scientific/government establishment, however, the SRI practitioners use indigenous varieties of crops and shun chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The whole enterprise is a vast social network of Internet-mediated participation that is aimed at learning how to eke out better yields on marginal plots of land. Some farmers even learn to “play with the monsoon” and its capricious ways to build soil health. The SRI knowledge commons has scientists, farmers and citizens all talking together on the same platforms, rather than the market-oriented “experts” declaring how agriculture should be pursued.
SRI and open source farming create opportunities and possibilities to address serious global problems. We have the resources of the commons and collective wisdom as tools to respond to these challenges. And there is also a treasure, unacknowledged by some, in the ability of rice and other crops to respond positively to conditions farmers create in the field. They give hope where others only see insufficient resources and insurmountable challenges.