Climate-smart Rice Cultivation System Shows Promising Results

Climate-smart Rice Cultivation System Shows Promising Results
Oct 14, 2021

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With its extreme weather conditions, climate change poses a threat to rice farming across the world, among other things due to anticipated irrigation water scarcity and escalated labor costs.

Not only that, conventional paddy, where rice is grown by transplanting seedlings in puddled soils, is a major emitter of methane. In Asia alone, these types of rice growing systems are considered the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Moreover, they are labor, water and energy intensive, and have a negative effect on soil structure.

"There is a dire need to promote new systemic solutions to promote sustainable and climate-neutral farming systems," says Dr. Udaya Sekhar Nagothu from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research. "Shifting to climate neutral and resilient farming systems such as direct seeding of rice can address both climate adaptation and mitigation if implemented in the right way."

Reduced methane emissions in both wet and dry conditions

Dr. Nagothu coordinates Resilience, a collaborative multidisciplinary and multi-actor supported research program, which is currently being implemented in the two states of Odisha and Assam located in the east and northeastern parts of India. Here, the main goal is to improve agricultural productivity, adaptive capacity and livelihoods of smallholders to climate and economic changes.

"In Resilience, our aim is to find ways to increase the climate resilience of Indian smallholders. This can be achieved by implementing  combined with agroecological farming approaches in order to strengthen their food and nutrition security," says Dr. Nagothu.

One of the systems which has been implemented in Resilience's project areas, is direct seeding of rice (DSR) in both wet seeded and dry seeded conditions. The system entails growing a rice crop from rice seeds sown directly in the field, as opposed to transplanting seedlings raised in nurseries customary in traditional rice paddies.

"Both earlier research and our results show a significant reduction in methane emissions from DSR fields under both wet and dry conditions," Dr. Nagothu says. "There are a few challenges though, one of which concerns elevated nitrous oxide emissions. This can be solved by developing proper nitrogen management practices to curtail the losses of reactive nitrogen."

As far as the  potential (GWP) of DSR is concerned, the overall net effect of the greenhouse gases emitted decreases by 16–33 percent in comparison to conventional rice farming practice.

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