Empirical Assessment of the System of Rice Intensification

Haven’t blogged in a while, as graduate school (M.S. in International Agricultural Development, UC Davis, with plans to add a second M.S in Agricultural and Resource Economics) has been pretty time consuming.

For an assignment in a agronomic systems assessment course this spring, we had to undertake an evaluation of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI, also used for other crops), using peer-reviewed scientific literature. SRI has been the subject of a growing number of popular media and NGO articles, which are generally slanted toward the pro or con side, and don’t reference more than one or two peer- reviewed studies, if they reference them at all.

It was a valuable assignment that seemed like a balanced complement to mainstream media and NGO reports, and a good reminder about why we need to refer to peer-reviewed research (using several diverse pieces) to evaluate such reports rather than taking them at face value. It’s attached as a PDF, with the description of the assignment below for reference.

Assignment description: “Imagine that you are working for a non-profit with a global reach. Your boss is very excited about a recently published article in The Guardian, and wants to aggressively promote SRI broadly, as part of a global initiative.  As the agricultural scientist in the room, you are asked to write a two-page memo based on sound science (with references) that briefly explains what SRI is and why it should/should not be widely adopted. Explore the peer-reviewed literature for research that tests the components of SRI in developing world contexts.  Synthesize the conclusions of the research papers you encounter and present a well-supported defense or criticism of SRI, citing any specific biological claims you make.”

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