Day 2 of the ICSCI22 was organised in two concurrent sessions during the morning and two concurrent sessions during the afternoon. As the venues were not far from each other, participants were able to move according to their specific interests.
The initial presentations focused on the development of new breeds of maize, sugarcane, and rice as a strategy to achieve greater resilience while the case of Kalanamak Rice was presented for stressing the importance of local varieties for health, markets, and biodiversity preservation. Two speakers focused on the impact of cultivation methods on productivity, climate resilience, and insect pest incidence. Dr Ram Bahadur Khadka from Nepal presented his work on the enhancement of SRI performances through microbial inoculation and explained how it reduces biotic and abiotic stresses in rice. The efficacy of Trichoderma inoculation is better in combination with SRI practices than in conventional rice growing as the root architecture of SRI plants is much more developed and provides more ecological niches for microbial colonisation. This demonstrates that SRI practices not only increase productivity but also increase soil biodiversity. Since symbiotic association of microbes changes the rice phenotypes, fortifying SRI rice with appropriate microbial communities contributes to increasing yield by supporting the growth of healthy, resilient, and sustainable rice plants.
(See Dr Khadka’s research here and his research on the effects of Trichoderma treatment with SRI here).
Meanwhile, the concurrent Theme 4 ‘Agro-Industries/Mechanization for Scaling up SCI’ was introduced by discussions on the trends in sustainable mechanisation of Indian agriculture, the role of smart agriculture, and the importance of monitoring systems. Renewable energy and the impact of biochar in rice-based agri-systems were also brought together with the use of drip irrigation and fertigation for enhancing water productivity of rice. Ken Lee shared Lotus Foods’ unique experience in developing value chains for SRI rice, offering the opportunity for an interesting discussion on the market's role in promoting sustainable agriculture. Since 2008, Lotus Foods, a US-based importer of heirloom and pigmented rice produced on family farms, has been sourcing marketable surpluses of rice grown by farmers using System of Rice Intensification (SRI) practices. It presently sources SRI-grown rice in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, and Thailand. Lotus Foods’ commitment is based on the recognition that SRI is a more efficient, environmentally responsible, and equitable way to grow rice, especially for smallholder producers.
After lunch break, participants joined either Theme 3 ‘Resource use and Conservation in SCI (Natural Farming, Organic Farming, Conservation Agriculture etc.), Climate Resilience and Ecosystem Protection’ or Theme 5 ‘SCI Adoption and their Socio-Economic Impacts including Gender, Labour and Institutional Dynamics’.
Theme 3 was introduced by Dr. PV Vara Prasad who presented the USAID Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL), one of the largest innovation labs active in research, education and outreach programs in multiple countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Dr. Prasad reminded that today about 811 million people do not get enough to eat and climate change is partially responsible for this. Agriculture has the potential to be carbon negative and feed all humans, but a different approach is needed. Some Climate Smart and Sustainable Agricultural (CSA) practices were presented, and a wider integration of these practices was proposed as a step toward a holistic approach to sustainable intensification. The previous day, researchers called for a flexible approach to SRI and SCI methods for allowing farmers to adapt SRI principles to their contexts and to facilitate the transition to a full adoption of all the practices. It was interesting to notice how flexibility and multidimensionality are required for boosting positive changes in the farming sector by successfully addressing many multifaceted problems.
Some specific topics, like the amelioration potential of biomass-derived ashes in agroecosystems, the targeted nitrogen management, and specific agro-ecological strategies for resilient rainfed production systems stressed again the availability of many different options for making agriculture more sustainable and able to respond to contextual barriers.
The Theme proceeded with a detailed explanation of how SRI methods conserve resources, benefit the environment, and create resilience to climate change. The presentations of the experiences with SRI practices in Iraq and Nigeria concluded the section, proving once again the validity of SRI principles in different contexts and the possibility to design locally-adapted SRI practices.
Meanwhile, in the Seminar Hall, Dr Abha Mishra built on her experience as coordinator of the SRI-Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) project to highlight the importance of building innovative alliances for scaling SRI. Read the research from SRI-LMB here.
Later, Sri. Anil Kumar Verma (PRAN) reported his extensive experience in scaling SRI/SCI in Bihar and other parts of India under the name of System of Roots Intensification (SRI). Anil played some songs about SRI that farmers like to sing while working in the fields. This offered the opportunity to reflect on the complete paradigm shift of SRI methods from the Green Revolution approach. Agroecology and, in this particular case, SRI methods nurture the soil to nourish healthy plants and healthy people.
After the intense day of learning about multiple approaches to support the upscale of sustainable and regenerative agriculture, all the participants enjoyed some cultural songs. Later, everyone had dinner while discussing what they learned and brainstorming on possible future works to sustainably intensify agriculture in India and abroad.
Still to come is our Day 3 Report from the ICSCI conference. Check back here soon!
In the meantime, why not check out some SRI locations in India and other countries around the world here!