The Rice/ Wheat Intensification System, also known as SRI/ SWI, is a climate-wise, smart agricultural method that uses plants, soil, water, and nutrients to increase the productivity of rice and, more recently, other crops.
SRI has four main principles for increasing crop productivity:
- Timely, fast, and healthy plant development.
- Less plant saturation
- Application of organic matter in the soil for increasing soil nutrients.
- Controlled water supply to crops
Farmers can take actions based on these principles according to their agro-ecological conditions. These principles are applied to other crops such as wheat, sugarcane, pulses, finger millet, mustard, soybean, eggplant, maize, teff, etc., to produce greater yields. When SRI principles are applied to other crops, it is referred to as a “system of crop intensification” (SCI). These principles are utilized to accommodate changing weather conditions, water control, soil status, labor availability, and the decision of applying organic fertilizers.
Origin of SRI
The SRI technique was first originated in 1980 by Fr. Henri de, who came to Madagascar from France. Rice is a staple food in Madagascar, and he wanted to help the farmers of that region intensify their rice production. The Malagasy were poor people, and they did not have enough purchasing power. Henri helped them improve the production of the rice crop without making them dependent on external inputs.
System of wheat intensification SWI
With an increasing population, the demand for food is increasing in India. The agriculture industry must develop ways to enhance the yields of staple foods like rice and wheat. Wheat is the most important crop in India. Thus, there is a need to intensify crop production by turning cultivation weaknesses into strengths. The system of wheat intensification is a new system and it utilizes the principles of SRI for wheat crop production. The adoption of this method could double the production of wheat crops. It requires proper plant spacing and allows adequate aeration, humidity, sunlight, and nutrient availability. It leads to proper root development at the early plant stage. It is a proven methodology for small-scale farmers to improve wheat yields while keeping the labour and cost of production to a minimum. The required time for the plot preparation, plantation, and seed covering through soil is approximately half as compared to the conventional plot preparation process. Thus, farmers are attracted to practicing System of Wheat Intensification because of its labor-saving quality rather than its water-saving or better yielding production quality.
This technique is about managing the soil system, plant spacing, nutrients, and water levels. The plants are planted at a significant distance and the soil is kept loose. All these qualities help develop strong and larger root systems. The fertilizers used in this method are organic in nature, instead of synthetic or chemical fertilizers. Mostly, compost is used as a soil conditioner. It gives the soil sufficient nutrients, fungi, bacteria, and worms, which keeps the soil healthy and therefore promotes a stronger root system. The soil is properly aerated, which enhances the growth of aerobic bacteria in the soil. By keeping proper space among plants, each plant has enough nutrients and space to grow at its full potential.
Principles of SWI
The System of Rice/ Wheat Intensification is primarily based on two principles of wheat crop production.
The principle of root development
When plants are closely placed, their roots compete for water, sunlight, and nutrients. Weeds also compete with plants because, in the traditional method of wheat cultivation, they also abundantly grow along with plants. This competition inhibits the root growth, thereby suppressing the wheat crop production. In SWI, seeds are sown at a considerable distance (approximately 20 cm apart). This distancing promotes the development of a better root system. Each plant has more exposure to sunlight, air, and nutrients, which results in better yield production.
The principle of intensive care
The stiff competition of weeds, insect and pest attacks, and various plant diseases are major hindrances in the production of wheat crops. Therefore, to get higher wheat yields, crops are intensively taken care of. It involves greater care of the soil. Close monitoring of weeds, diseases, insects and pests, water levels and aeration is done to ensure the better production of wheat crops.
The advantage of SWI
The Rice/ Wheat Intensification methodology effectively reduces labour, time, water resources, and costs. Research shows that SWI has the following advantages:
- It saves up to 30% of wheat seeds as compared to traditional planting.
- Irrigation is simpler and easier. This process saves up to 30% of water.
- Organic fertilizers are used to enhance soil fertility.
- The distances among plants help with better aeration, humidity, sunlight, and nutrients for plants.
- Weeds can be easily removed by hand.
- The space among plants gives an opportunity for intercropping.
- Plant size is high, with bolder grain sizes.
- With these favourable conditions, the wheat yield achieved is 2-3 times greater than the traditional wheat cultivation.
Compared to traditional methods, SWI has performed well on all growth parameters, production characteristics, and grain production. Encouraging results from SWI inspire farmers around the world, who work equally well in both favorable and unfavorable (climatic stress) conditions. SWI technology has already proven its capabilities in terms of numerous advantages, such as increasing the productivity per unit of land, water, and other inputs with high economic benefits. However, further research is needed on various agronomic and biological changes in plants using the SWI method. Finally, more skill-based training is needed for SWI farmers to build their confidence.