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Nepalese Rice Farmers Boost Yields By Sowing Fewer Plants And Cutting Water

As the climate gets drier, researchers are looking again at an alternative method to grow rice — a crop that feeds millions of people — that uses less water. But support for the technique is mixed.
Apsara Bharati is watching over her field in Nepal, where she and her neighbors are using the system of rice intensification to plant seedlings. Source: Danielle Preiss

Apsara Bharati and her neighbors are spread across a small bit of land in Kavre, about 20 miles outside Kathmandu, Nepal's capital. The women bend to plant rice seedlings in mud up to their calves in Bharati's field.

"One by one," Bharati instructs the women, who are used to placing several plants at once. Bharati is practicing SRI, or the system of rice intensification. The technique, which was developed in Madagascar in the 1980s by French Jesuit priest Henri de LaulaniĂŠ, involves several practices that seem counterintuitive to increasing production, such as planting fewer seedlings, planting them younger and using less water. But small farmers across the world have reported massive gains in yield that they attribute to the process.

Farmers using SRI in Nepal have consistently doubled

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