published by Independent Science News
Jonathan Latham (December 3rd, 2012)
Synopsis: A farmer-led revolution in agriculture is underway. Small farmers
around the world are dramatically boosting their yields and productivity by
adopting a growing system called SCI (System of Crop Intensification).
SCI is based on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) which is characterised by modifications to agricultural practices designed entirely to promote healthy plant growth. This is achieved primarily by improving soil quality and greatly lowering planting density. Since SRI and SCI typically require no fertilisers or pesticides, use far less seeds and work well with every crop variety, these methods radically boost farmer income and reduce their costs. Unsurprisingly, they are being rapidly adopted, so far in over 50 countries. A key observation about SRI and SCI is that, though they are popular with farmers, they continue to be developed almost entirely outside of the conventional scientific agricultural research system. Standard agricultural research is based on manipulating crop genetics and exploiting external inputs; it effectively ignores whole farming systems. The radical improvements exhibited by SRI and SCI suggests this narrow research focus has been a historic error.