But when grown in soil, plants can still be grown intensively, as we see in SRI (System of Rice Intensification), SWI (System of Wheat Intensification), SSI (Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative) or SCI (System of Crop Intensification). Since chemical
fertilizers and agro-chemicals should never be used in these intensive crop systems, the transformation of all biodegradable waste at the highest possible level is essential.
In a compelling and powerful paper called Higher Yields with
Fewer External Inputs? The System of Rice Intensification and Potential Contributions to Agricultural Sustainability, Dr. Norman Upholf takes a strong position against the use of inorganic fertilizers and other agrochemicals in rice cultivation. He states
that by raising rice the SRI way, rice yields can double “without relying on external inputs.” He also says that SRI “reduces the need for irrigation water by about half and diminishes the requirements for capital and seed.” The amount
of seed and hence the cost of seed are reduced ten-fold. Reducing the need for irrigation water is a major concern in Vietnam, since so much groundwater in Vietnam, as we have seen, is contaminated with arsenic. One might add that the input of biochar in SRI
soils should substantially increase yield and reduce the need for irrigation.
fully agree with Dr. Upholf that rice in Vietnam should be grown without inorganic fertilizers and other unsustainable inputs. But for this to happen, it is essential that rice cultivation be coupled to animal and poultry systems. Of course, ducks can
be raised in SRI rice fields. But ducks are not enough. We need other creatures such as cows and chickens.
Why cows? We need cows eating rice straw co-fermented with rice bran and rice hull biochar. As we transform cattle
waste by means of larvae and red worms, we produce feed for chickens and ducks.
chickens? We need fresh chicken manure collected off of bedding to co-ferment with green or dry rice straw to feed to cows. While ducks deposit their waste directly in rice fields, the main fertilizer for rice fields comes from the transformed waste of the
cow in the form of larval residue or vermicompost.
So in growing SRI rice, the farmer also grow cows, chickens and ducks. They represent income to the farmer that might even
surpass the income from the sale of rice. Through rice cultivation, the farmer finds an excellent way to raise cows, chickens and ducks.
grown on source-separated human urine, can also be fermented with rice bran and rice hull biochar, and fed to chickens and ducks who then contribute their waste to the growth of rice. It’s vital, it’s absolutely necessary, that nutrients from humans
get incorporated in a clean and sanitary way into the production of rice.
if all of Vietnam’s roughly 4.0 million hectares of rice were supported by cattle, ducks, chickens and humans, and if the straw produced by these 4.0 million hectares of rice were fermented and fed to cattle along with other sustainable inputs, Vietnam
could boast of an inventory of at least 20 million head of cattle on this one crop alone. This number represents more than 20% of calf and cattle inventories in the United States (Cattle & Beef). And not a single hectare of pastureland is needed.
could become just as much a powerhouse in beef and milk production as it is in rice production. It could stop importing chemical fertilizers to cultivate rice. And it could put an end to the drain on its economy of importing beef, powdered milk and live cattle
for slaughter to feed its people (Vietnam to spend nearly $5bn on meat, animal feed material imports in 2015).