Environment Smart Rice Farming

Climate-Smart Rice Farming and Environment Smart Rice Farming are being used interchangeably to refer to the system of rice farming that sustainably increases productivity, enhances adaptive capacity and reduces greenhouse gas emissions where possible. 

I was opportune to speak on “Environmental Impact of Chemical and Environmental Smart Rice Farming” at an online webinar by Sustainability Hub, “Knowledge Session on Environmental Smart Rice Farming”, supported by Share Yourself. These are some knowledge shared at the webinar am sure will interest you. 

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Rice farming today is faced with several agronomic and environmental challenges related to the intensification of crop production.

The deceleration in the growth of rice yields, soil depletion, growing water use, increasing water and air pollution as well as climate change are some of the most extensive areas of concern.

Feeding people in decades to come will require ingenuity and innovation to produce more food on less land in more sustainable ways.

Climate change will exacerbate tight resource constraints by making weather more extreme and variable and decreasing average yields worldwide.

Population growth, changing diets, and land and water scarcity are long-term trends that threaten our shared vision of a more prosperous future. Well-fed people everywhere can achieve their full potential without damaging their environment.

System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

System of Rice Intensification is one of the proven techniques to ensure environmental smart rice farming practices.

  • It is an agro-ecological methodology for increasing the productivity of irrigated rice by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients.
  • Increase the abundance and diversity of soil organisms
  • Its principles include keeping the soil moist but not flooded, Aerating the soil frequently, and Enhancing the soil’s organic matter content
  • Keep paddy soil moist but not continuously saturated so that primarily aerobic soil conditions prevail.
  • Control weeds with frequent weeding by a mechanical hand weeder (rotating hoe or cono weeder) that also aerates the soil
  • Apply as much organic matter to the soil as possible; can use chemical fertiliser, but best results from compost, mulch etc.
  • Water quality improved when biological weed management and manual weeding were used instead of chemical pesticides.

The Urea Deep Placement

  • The Urea Deep Placement (UDP) technique, developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), is a good example of a climate-smart solution for rice systems. 
  • The usual technique for applying urea, the main nitrogen fertiliser for rice, is through a broadcast application. This is a very inefficient practice, with 60 to 70 per cent of the nitrogen applied is lost, contributing to GHG emissions and water pollution.
  • In the UDP technique, urea is made into “briquettes” of 1 to 3 grams placed at 7 to 10 cm soil depth after the paddy is transplanted.
  • For instance, the National Programme For Food Security of Nigeria (NPFS) is supported by South/South cooperation with China. This support includes promoting and developing the UDP technique in several Nigerian states.

SRI Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

  • The system of Rice Intensification has the advantage of shorter duration and suitability to fit into changes in water availability periods.
  • Adaptation to Water scarcity through conservation at the farm level – mainly due to controlled irrigation and alternate wetting.
  • Tolerance to abiotic (drought, heat waves, cold snaps, winds) and biotic (pest and diseases) stresses.
  • As a Mitigation, Soil organic carbon declines after shifting from a flooded system to a non-flooded system.
  • Methane emissions from rice fields are determined mainly by the water regime and organic inputs.

Food for Thought

To feed the continent’s 900 million people, Africa needs its own food security. This can only be achieved through a uniquely African Green Revolution. It must be a revolution that recognizes that smallholder farmers are the key to increasing production, promotes change across the entire agricultural system, and puts fairness and the environment at its heart

 Kofi A. Annan, Chair of the Board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA, 2010). 

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