Methane, water, birds, pollution — how can rice farmers tackle trade-offs?
Rice is the world’s most important crop. Over half of the global population relies on rice as their daily staple food; over a fifth depends on rice cultivation for their livelihood, according to the International Rice Research Institute and the U.S. Department for Agriculture. With such a massive footprint, it’s no surprise that rice is leaving its mark on the environment.
Most rice grows in flooded fields, requiring large amounts of irrigation water. When the water covers the soil, it prevents oxygen from passing through, creating perfect conditions for bacteria that break down organic matter and emit methane — a process called anaerobic digestion. Any method that reduces water coverage, allowing soils to breathe, cuts emissions.