In the 1980s, with Indonesia's population rising and Balinese rice yields falling, SFI External Professor Steve Lansing followed a hunch that the decline of the rice harvests was somehow related to the abandonment of centuries-old farming methods.

Those methods, tied to religious practices that were coordinated through a network of water temples, had been disrupted by modern farming methods, pesticides, and hybrid grains.

He and ecologist James Kremer devised a computer model showing that over hundreds of years, the water temple networks had self-organized, creating a globally optimal scale of water use, irrigation schedules, and fallow periods that had maximized rice yields.

“As we repeated these simulations,” says Lansing, “we found that it is almost impossible not to grow a water temple system.”

Read the full article in the SFI Update (September-October 2012)