Sustainable Agriculture: The Food Revolution That Starts With Rice
Many a professor dreams of revolution. But Norman T. Uphoff, working in a leafy corner of the Cornell University campus, is leading an inconspicuous one centered on solving the global food crisis. The secret, he says, is a new way of growing rice.
Rejecting old customs as well as the modern reliance on genetic engineering, Dr. Uphoff, 67, an emeritus professor of government and international agriculture with a trim white beard and a tidy office, advocates a management revolt.
Harvests typically double, he says, if farmers plant early, give seedlings more room to grow and stop flooding fields. That cuts water and seed costs while promoting root and leaf growth.
The method, called the System of Rice Intensification, or S.R.I., emphasizes the quality of individual plants over the quantity. It applies a less-is-more ethic to rice cultivation.
In a decade, it has gone from obscure theory to global trend - and encountered fierce resistance from established rice scientists. Yet a million rice farmers have adopted the system, Dr. Uphoff says. The rural army, he predicts, will swell to 10 million farmers in the next few years, increasing rice harvests, filling empty bellies and saving untold lives.
"The world has lots and lots of problems," Dr. Uphoff said recently while talking of rice intensification and his 38 years at Cornell. "But if we can't solve the problems of peoples' food needs, we can't do anything. This, at least, is within our reach."
That may sound audacious given the depths of the food crisis and the
troubles facing rice. 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. The price jolt has provoked riots, panicked
hoarding and violent protests in poor countries...
Full Story: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/science/17rice.html