NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 18, 2008

According to Dr. Norman T. Uphoff, a professor at Cornell University, the secret to solving the global food crisis is a new way of growing rice.  Harvests typically double, he says, if farmers plant early, give seedlings more room to grow and stop flooding fields.  This method, called the System of Rice Intensification, or S.R.I., cuts water and seed costs while promoting root and leaf growth. 

In a decade, it has gone from obscure theory to global trend -- and encountered fierce resistance from established rice scientists.  Roughly half the world eats the grain as a staple food even as yields have stagnated and prices have soared, nearly tripling in the past year. 

According to Dr. Uphoff:

  • Nearly one million rice farmers have adopted the system; he predicts the rural army will swell to 10 million farmers in the next few years.
  • Top S.R.I. users include India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam, along with 28 other countries on three continents.
  • In Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India, the system is revolutionizing paddy farming while spreading to a staggering million acres.


  • A recent report from the Timbuktu region of Mali, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, said farmers had raised rice yields 34 percent.
  • In Laos, an agriculture official recently said S.R.I. had doubled the size of rice crops in three provinces and would spread to the whole country because it provided greater yields with fewer resources.

Source: William J. Broad, "Food Revolution That Starts With Rice," New York Times, June 17, 2008.

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