An unconventional rice cultivation method is once again making headlines with another record-breaking crop, this one cultivated by Southern Indian farmer S Sethumadhavan.
Sethumadhavan has broken records with a yield of 24 tonnes per hectare (a hectare is about 2.5 acres) — that's more than four times the average for this particular cultivar, according to the The Guardian. And all this was achieved using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a cultivation technique 30 years in the making that emphasizes soil care and sustainable cultivation techniques (versus seed care) — and which uses significantly less water and fertilizer than its conventional counterparts.
Jaisingh Gnanadurai, joint director of agriculture in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, claimed the record yield as a victory for advocates of more sustainable farming.
"This is a state record," he told The Guardian. "The Tamil Nadu government has advocated a second green revolution by using more organic fertiliser and less inorganic fertiliser. Our chief minister's aim is to get double the yield and triple the income of farmers using SRI."
We should, of course, be careful not to get too carried away. When I first wrote about the SRI process, Professor Norman Uphoff at Cornell University warned me that SRI is no silver bullet. It seems with this latest record, Uphoff is again cautioning us media-types to not get too carried away with the hype, telling The Guardian that "[It is] averages that feed hungry people and raise farmers out of poverty, not records."
Still, outliers can be part of a broader statistical trend. And with farmers in some regions reporting average yields 40 percent larger than in conventional farming, SRI seems to be worth farmers' attention.
And, just in case you're wondering why we should care about rice yields, here's why it matters:
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