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View Diary: Another Revolution in Agriculture Underway? (87 comments)

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  •  What's really interesting is SRI - SCI (21+ / 0-)

    keeps becoming news. (This has been going on for a decade.) There is a turf war between scientists who see "nothing there" and others who claim the second coming. Perhaps, like organic farming, there is something there, but most agronomists don't want to see it (or dismiss it because not all growers can take advantage of it), or the claims are not what proponents make them out to be. What proponents don't talk about is why farmers fail using this method and go back to conventional methods, critics don't discuss why farmers adopt and stay with the system citing good yields.
    Anything that gives farmers resilience in the face of climate change and chemical input costs should be researched and offered as an alternative.

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 01:09:13 PM PST

    •  True Enough (15+ / 0-)

      But then the original green revolution unfolded over decades too. There is seldom an overnight success in this kind of effort. In the case of SRI it's not like they have a Monsanto publicizing the hell out of it or running ads on the Sunday talking head shows.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 02:36:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree re publicity, but researchers at IRRI (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miss SPED, wasatch, OhioNatureMom

        are not skeptical, they are downright dismissive, and this pissing match has gone on for like I said, a decade at least. IRRI isn't a Monsanto think tank.

        Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

        by the fan man on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 03:19:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I suspect (17+ / 0-)

          that the pertinent problem is socialization.  The funders of IRI are Big Government and Big Education, established centers of "first world" convention, down to links with the World Bank and IMF.  They might not work for Monsanto, but they've been educated for lifetimes on established principles that emphasize large-scale planning and industrial production.  Their entire attitudes are going to be about how to bring small independent farmers "up" to the best practices defined by large-scale mass-production.  

          Mass-production has relied since the 19th century on reducing the use of labor by the substitution of capital and technology.  Its tradition derives from the conditions of the American Plains in the 1840's, where vast sweeps of unclaimed but marginal land were being claimed and worked by single families with limited manpower.  These ideas have always translated poorly to the Old World, where agricultural holdings tend to be divided into small plots worked by large families, with land tenure and water rights issues intricately assigned by rules that have been worked out over centuries.  But that doesn't keep western "experts" from continuing to impose their mental formula inappropriately onto those conditions, which results often in their insistence that traditional land-use patterns are the Problem, along with lack of capital (credit).  The result is often small farmers urged to go deeply into debt in order to "compete" by purchasing the latest in agricultural technology and inputs appropriate to conditions vastly different than their own.

          The SRI system seems to be very well-adapted to small-scale farming with intense knowledge and commitment from the owner-operator.  It would be a nightmare to apply to professionally-managed corporate farms worked by low-wage, exploited immigrant labor.  It substitutes hard work and proprietary attention to the welfare of crops and land for scarce capital, large acreage, and high technology.  This is in every way the opposite of modern agrobusiness adaptations.  Attempts to employ or test it in the absence of dedicated farmer/owners would be doomed to failure.  Even grad students would balk at the intensity of work and attention that would be necessary to implement these methods.  This kind of farming is not for amateurs.

          •  IRRI is adapted to small landholders. (7+ / 0-)

            In fact, that's their main clients. What we call small landholders and what is in the developing world is a completely different thing. Do any of us know that farmers can't legally own more than 2 hectares in India?

            Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

            by the fan man on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 05:03:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Didn't know the legal limit, (10+ / 0-)

              no.  But I was aware that these farms are too small to be considered "farms" in America.  IRRI may consider itself to be serving small landholders, but according to their webpage their main funding comes from an organization called CGIAR.  Checking the CGIAR website, I find that the members of their board include a former economist with the World Bank, first-world government officials, prestigious university advisors, etc. -- all the kind of people who would have backgrounds in "accepted practices" and be likely to apply first-world assumptions to their evaluations of traditional methods.  Where SRI seems to have been intensively developed "on the ground" by local farmers in Madagascar with the outside help acting primarily as facilitators, your IRRI and CGIAR would be more likely to see themselves as "teachers" educating the locals on best practices.

              Again, paging through to the link on rotary hoes, I cannot imagine any of the people on the CGIAR Board actually taking off their shoes and pushing one of these innovative devices through a muddy rice paddy.  OTOH the notes on pros and cons of the equipment and the fact that they include CAD printouts for fabrication of the hoes demonstrates familiarity with actual conditions of use.  Again, I think this is not so much a matter of competition as comprehension.  Attitudes backed by social reinforcement evolve very slowly, especially among those who are accustomed to thinking of themselves as social superiors.

              •  You're overthinking this. SRI is a technique (5+ / 0-)

                oriented. IRRI is seed/genetics oriented.

                (SRI was created by a first world missionary based on observation of "unusual farmer practices" and has support from a prof at Cornell, which takes money from god knows where, doesn't make it bad.
                CGIAR and IRRI were created by Bourlag with financial support from Rockefeller, Bourlag certainly a guy who was up to his knees in dirt, as are IRRI scientists. By the way, GGIAR is very much opposed to the commercialization of genetic resources and has rebuffed Monsanto and other seed conglomerates repeatedly.)

                I'll say it again, if SRI offers farmers a way to get decent yields (the "highest" yield isn't necessary) with minimal inputs, great. Here's how you can tell if there is real conflict: if farmers cannot get loans or equip when utilizing SRI vs those who use IRRI's resources. THAT'S institutional bias and serious turf war.

                Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

                by the fan man on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 04:52:44 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  2 hectares is equal to 4.94 acres (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW, the fan man

              Who can own more than two hectares in India?  

              Renewable energy brings national global security.     

              by Calamity Jean on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 04:08:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Good question, but keeping farms that (0+ / 0-)

                small can limit potential. Right?

                Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

                by the fan man on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 04:51:52 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It makes it much less economic to use (0+ / 0-)

                  engine-driven equipment.  Hand work or an ox or water buffalo makes more sense on such a small farm.  In a densely populated country small farms are better.  

                  Renewable energy brings national global security.     

                  by Calamity Jean on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 02:55:12 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  How small? How much money to make a living? (0+ / 0-)

                    Are these subsistence farms or surplus farms? Do they count on money derived from farming to make ends meet? What happens if more than one child's family wants to stay on the land?
                    I'm a small farm advocate, but there are limits to that advocacy. I understand why India created such a law, and I imagine there are many ways around it.

                    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

                    by the fan man on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:38:57 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The quote that started the diary says (0+ / 0-)

                      a farmer grew "22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land", so the farm clearly feeds more than the farmer's family.  Obviously the farmer intends to sell most of that rice and use the money to buy other things.  

                      What happens if more than one child's family wants to stay on the land?    
                      That's a tough one.  I don't know.  

                      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

                      by Calamity Jean on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 09:00:23 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Sorry CJ, I was thinking more universally, not (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        JeffW

                        re this method of rice production. The sibling issue is important, cities or rural industries have to be able to provide work. When two families divide the pot, it's not good.

                        Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

                        by the fan man on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:44:24 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

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