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SRI Probiotics Friendly-Farming Method Allows Soil to Breathe: Waiting for Rich Harvest

SRI Probiotics Friendly-Farming Method Allows Soil to Breathe: Waiting for Rich Harvest

Director of the NPUST Department of Civil Engineering, Professor Yu-Min Wang, oversees the Water Conservation Lab responsible for a 10 year research initiative focused on improved crop cultivation methods. The Project has received funding from the Council of Agriculture, the Pingtung Irrigation Association and the SRI Society of Conservation Agriculture (CA-SRI) and involves masters and PhD students from Nepal, Swaziland, Burkina Faso, Papua New Guinea and Taiwan and faculty members from the Department of Biological Science and Technology and the Department of Plant Industry. 

The decade-long initiative has resulted in a new eco-friendly farming technique, monikered the “more-three, less-four method” (三多四少農法), which comes down to more sun-drying, more plowing, more organic matter; fewer seedlings, fewer pesticides, less water and less fertilizer. Producing rich and high quality crops, the method not only conserves water, but also helps make the stocks more resilient to wind damage.

NPUST President Chang-Hsien Tai pointed out that “the industry-government- academia rice-paddy water conservation team is expanding the employment of the technique in the Taitung area and conducting SRI probiotic cultivation experiments. Already, they have successfully produced quality rice crops using their new approach. Their work is very practical, not only are they greatly reducing water use, but are also providing students with an opportunity to take part in cross-discipline internships. We hope that in the future the technique will be adopted internationally so that many more farmers will be able to benefit from it”.

Professor Yu-Min Wang also shared some comments, stating that “in addition to using probiotics to strengthen the toughness of rice, we have uniquely developed UAV infrared imaging chlorophyll estimation capabilities to improve the efficiency of farm management. The UAVs are equipped with cameras with 4 infrared lenses for shooting at different distances and have 12 different vegetation indexes installed to calculate the levels of chlorophyll and effectively monitor crop growth for better field management. Not only does this reduce the human effort needed for crop cultivation, but when paired with an intelligent irrigation management system, it can reduce work on that end too.”

The Water Conservation Lab has spent nearly 10 years working out conservational watering techniques and their data has shown that, in Pingtung’s climate, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) can allow for up to a 55% reduction in water use. The experiment results have already been published in the international journal, Water.

The “more-three, less four” technique was first carried out on a one hectare plot of land at the The House of Plants - Fragrant Herbs Organic Field (植物之家香藥草有機田區) in Jiuru, Pingtung. During the trial period, even though they encountered several typhoons, the crop quality was excellent and results were fruitful.

In recent years, Taiwan has experienced several water shortages, and when considering that 70% of the water supply is used for agriculture (much of that going to rice cultivation), this friendly farming technique couldn’t have come at a better time. The technique replaces commonly used 8-10 stock transplanting method with a 3-5 stock one. When it’s time to irrigate, probiotics are added to the water to improve chances microbial activation in the soil. Then the patty is left to sun-dry at intervals of 2 to 3 days, each time, before flooding the field with 3 cm of water again. As a result, the rice stocks gradually adapt to the dry, hard ground and their roots increase in length, digging deep into the soil. Also, due to the fermenting effect and activity of the microorganisms, the soil becomes more porous and is able to breathe better –contributing to the growth and quality of the crops. Thus, this “more-three, less-four” method allows for a natural, water saving method that can produce excellent rice crops.

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