We are excited about this issue of The Natural Farmer. The principles which have been developed around rice production on small African and Asian farms over the last generation are truly revolutionary. Called SRI (for ‘System of Rice Intensification’), these methods are often counter-intuitive and fly in the face of conventional farming practices and agricultural theory. Yet they are delivering stunning results – very significant yield increases, higher plant health and quality, all with lower input costs.
“So,” you muse, “that is great. It is wonderful that you are excited about a new system for rice production in the Third World! But I’m a farmer in the northeast US with limited time. Why should I read about this?”
Why? Because these principles can be, and have been, applied successfully to other crops. In many cases these crops are the very ones we grow: potatoes, carrots, beans, eggplants. And once you wrap your brain around these principles, and think about why they work for raising plants, you will never farm the same way again.
That is strong language. But give this issue a chance to prove it to you. We devote several articles to the development and spread of SRI. The story is fascinating in and of itself. But we also look at other crops than rice that Third World farmers are raising this way – wheat, millet, tef, lentils, mustard, eggplants, tomatoes. It seems to be working for all of them. We explore why.
And then we spend a little time with an inquisitive and leading-edge Maine farmer who has been experimenting with such techniques for several years. We learn about his discovery of these methods and then how he has applied them, with remarkable success, to beans, wheat, carrots and potatoes. He calls it SCI for the “System of Crop Intensification”.
So take a couple of hours off this winter. Grab this paper and settle down for a nice read. Open up your mind to some interesting history and ideas, and then muse about how you might be able to adapt these thoughts to make next year happier and healthier on your farm or garden!