Friday, July 19, 2024

Drip irrigation can reduce the vast footprint of rice cultivation

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Rice is a staple diet across much of the world with billions of people depending on it for their daily sustenance. Yet wet rice cultivation is not without grave environmental costs. In fact, it comes with an enormous environmental footprint.

For starters, growing rice in flooded paddies contributes an estimated 12% of global emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is driving global climate change. Meanwhile, rice cultivation also requires anywhere between 30% and 40% of the planet’s freshwater, which can place great strains on already depleted sources in more arid regions.

Yet rice can be cultivated in far greener ways. One solution, devised by an Israeli company, involves fitting paddies out with perforated pipes that deliver precise amounts of water directly to the plants’ roots. The result of fine-tuned drip irrigation is that less than half of the water is needed than the quantity used in a traditional flooded paddy.

During a pilot project Netafim, the company which once pioneered drip irrigation in arid landscapes around Israel, set up rice fields at various locations in Europe all the way to South Asia.

At a farm in northeast Italy, high-quality rice is grown side-by-side in paddies employing both the traditional method and the new drip-irrigation technique. Reportedly the new drip-irrigation technique has yielded rice equal in quality to crops cultivated in the flooded paddies at a much reduced environmental cost. Read more…

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