A journalist from the Hindu newspaper has reported that rice farmers in India’s southernmost state are expecting a “bumper harvest” as a result of adopting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a methodology that is gaining popularity in the state.

The farmers saved input costs because SRI requires far fewer seeds than conventional methods and requires no chemical fertilizers or pesticides to be spread on the fields. Expensive seeds and chemicals drive the costs of farming increasingly up, and farmers suffer when their crops fail to produce a bountiful harvest as a result of drought, storms, and other environmental fluctuations.

In this year, the growing conditions were ideal, and the harvest is expected to be far greater than the harvest would be using conventional methods. The world record for the largest harvest of rice per hectare of land was obtained using the SRI methodology. A farmer in Tamil Nadu harvested an astonishing 24 metric tons of rice on one hectare of land (10,000 square meters) early this year.

SRI has also proven to be much more adaptable to non-ideal farming conditions as well. As a methodology SRI is flexible and allows farmers to quickly adapt to variable conditions. SRI also encourages the use of traditional varieties of seeds that are naturally groomed to grow in specific conditions. For example, farmers have developed over many decades seeds that can produce a harvest during extreme drought and varieties that will grow when soil is extremely salty, such as the conditions after a coastal hurricane washed seawater onto rice fields.

The Indian state of Tamil Nadu is one of the world leaders in promoting the System of Rice Intensification. It has invested considerable public resources into SRI research and conducts field schools to teach and support small farmers using SRI. The state government’s work has shown that SRI can increase yields while at the same time decreasing the amount of chemical inputs and radically reducing the amount of water required to produce a harvest.

The state of Tamil Nadu has also shown us that with the right vision and the development of an effective public infrastructure to support farmers using SRI, it’s possible to build an agricultural system that can feed the world and keep small farmers farming, instead of replacing them through mechanization.