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Sunset at the Paddy Field

It is a location worth shooting a movie. A damn romantic movie about love. An anti-establishment guy living in his world of organic living and a goddess trying to snatch him away. At the end of the day, the serenity of the paddy field, with all the lives surrounding it just lock the heart of the girl there and after all that they have gone through together, they live happily ever after.

I am talking about 20 acres of SRI-Organic Paddy Field in Tunjong, Kota Bharu developed under the Salor Care Foundation.

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SRI or The System of Rice Intensification was developed in Madagascar and popularised in the 1980s by Henri de Laulanié, a French Jesuit priest. Developed quite experimentally and inductively, SRI is not a standardised technological method. More importantly, it is a methodology for comprehensively managing resources— changing the way land, seeds, water, nutrients and human labour are used. SRI is an amalgamation of multiple beneficial practices that Father de Laulanié observed. It involves, 

  • Preparing high-quality land
  • Developing nutrient-rich and un-flooded nurseries
  • Using young seedlings for early transplantation
  • Transplanting the seedlings singly
  • Ensuring wider spacing between seedlings
  • Preferring compost or farmyard manure to
  • synthetic fertilisers
  • Managing water carefully so that the plants’ root zones moisten, but are not continuously saturated
  • Weeding frequently 

Land preparation: The required moisture level has to be maintained uniformly. For best results, SRI requires careful ploughing, puddling, levelling and raking, with drainage facilitated by 30 cm wide channels at two-meter intervals across the field. 

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Nurseries: The seedbeds have to be nutrient-rich and established as close to the main field as possible. This will enable quicker and easier transportation between the nurseries and the fields, minimizing both transport time and costs so that the seedlings are efficiently transplanted. No chemicals are applied to the seedbeds. 

Transplanting: This has to take place when the seedlings are just 8 to 12 days old, soon after they have two leaves, and at least before the 15th day after sowing. The seedlings must be transplanted with their roots intact, while the seed sac is still attached. They must not be plunged too deep into the soil, but placed on the ground at the appropriate point on the planting grid. Transplanting should be at 1-2 cm depth at the most. Transplanting should be done quickly, after gently removing seedlings from the nursery bed. The roots should not dry out. Care should be taken to avoid causing trauma to the roots. 

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Spacing: The seedlings should be planted at precise spacing, usually 25 X 25 cm, about 16 plants per square meter. Rice plant roots and canopies grow better if spaced widely, rather than densely. This exposes each plant to more sunlight, air and soil nutrients, and allows easier access for weeding. 

Soil nutrients: It is better to use organic nutrients, as they are better at promoting the abundance and diversity of microorganisms, starting with beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. This will promote proper microbial activity, thereby improving production. Under SRI method, even farmers who do not have access to organic manure may use less chemical fertilisers. 

Paddy Field Evening_0065Home-made organic Fertiliser

Watering: SRI requires the root zone to be kept moist, not submerged. Water applications can be intermittent, leaving plant roots with sufficiency, rather than surfeit, of water. Such management encourages more extensive, healthy root systems, and avoids root degeneration. More intensive management involves daily application of small amounts of water on a levelled if field. Farmers can decide for themselves which system is feasible for them and most beneficial for their crop, given soil biota. Reliable and precise irrigation service delivery is important — especially in the early growth period. Once the roots are well established, irrigation can be halted for three to six days at a time to encourage downward root growth. Some drying out of the soil is beneficial for the roots and soil organisms. SRI uses much less water than conventional methods of rice cultivation. 

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Weeding: Since there is no standing water and no continuous submergence of rice plants under SRI, weeds tend to proliferate, requiring careful and frequent weeding. The first weeding has to be done within 10 to 12 days of transplantation, and further weedings maybe required at intervals of 10-12 days. Weeding must continue until the crop has grown to such level that the canopy obviates weeding. 

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Pak Aep with his organic insectiside

Cost-effective in Every Way

The System of Rice Intensification improves yields with less water, less seed, and less chemical inputs than most conventional methods of rice cultivation. This means that the returns on inputs are higher, making the method potentially more profitable than most of the traditional methods. Initially it does require significantly more labour – mainly for preparing land and weeding. Most SRI farmers have found that as they get to know the methods better and gain confidence in them, their pace of work speeds up, and SRI actually becomes labour saving. SRI could contribute to job creation in rural areas. It is a different matter that SRI is becoming popular more for the obvious overall productivity gains in land, labour, water and capital. 

Higher Yields

SRI improves the productivity of land, labour, water and capital used in rice cultivation. Implementation of SRI has helped improve the yield of local varieties by between 6 and 8 tonnes per hectare. With improved management, hybrid varieties have yielded between 10 and 12 tonnes per hectare under SRI. Often a 20 to 40% increase in yield compared to that under conventional methods is observed in SRI. However, the actual yield increases depend on how well farmers practice SRI. 

Tunjong SRI-Organic Paddy Field

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The  paddy field is under the supervision of Mr. Aep Saipudin, an expert in SRI-Organic farming from Indonesia. Its Patron is Hj. Husam Musa, the State Assemblyman for Salor. 

At this Paddy Field utilising organic material is a priority. Water to irrigate the farm is treated organically using plants and effective microorganisms. This is important to ensure no chemical residue from fertiliser and pesticide wash into the paddy field. 

No synthetic material is use. Fertiliser is develop at the field using goats manure, domestic kitchen waste, grass and other materials found at the paddy field itself. Same goes for the insecticide. A recipe consisting of local herbs, garlic and galangal are used. 

Without the usage of chemicals, the soil and water are rich with bacteria, insects, fish and microorganism. 

For further information on the SRI-Organic Paddy Field, please contact Mr. Nuri or Mr Kamarulzaman at 09 701 1604. Practical training and workshop on SRI-Organic Paddy Farming is also available to those who are interested to learn about this excellent venture. 

To view more photos on of Tunjong SRI-Organic Paddy Field please click here.