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Launching of program to reduce methane emission from rice production

posted Nov 12, 2015, 6:03 PM by Gerardo Tomasito Laviña ‎(IRRI)‎   [ updated Nov 12, 2015, 10:08 PM ]

Los Baños, Philippines – A consortium of agricultural and environmental scientists will soon be launching a program that aims to reduce methane emissions from rice production in target countries. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Center forTropical Agriculture (CIAT), and partners will launch a new rice component of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The launch is scheduled for 31 October 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.

It is widely known that impacts of climate change negatively affect rice cultivation, such as reduced yield from temperature increases. On the other hand, flooded rice fields exacerbate climate change as they are the second largest agricultural source of methane emissions globally.

Together with national policymakers and nongovernment organizations, this new CCAC rice component aims to disseminate best practices to minimize methane emissions, particularly through the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) approach.

Years of IRRI research show that AWD could reduce methane emissions by 30–50% and present other benefits such as efficient water use, improved rice yields, and reduced production cost. Compared with the common practice of continuous flooding, AWD enables farmers to periodically dry and re-flood their rice fields. The result is a significant reduction in water use as well as a reduced build up of methane gas in rice production.

The technology makes use of a simple perforated plastic tube that allows farmers to observe water levels below the soil surface to know whether roots still have access to water and, in effect, whether it is the right time for irrigation. Through AWD, farmers can be confident that their rice plants receive sufficient water despite drying of the soil surface. Research and experience also show that there is no significant yield penalty with proper implementation of this practice. In combination with other measures, the improved application of this technique is referred to as AWD+.

The program will focus on Vietnam and Bangladesh, two major rice-producing countries in Asia, and Colombia, the second biggest rice-producing country in Latin America. These countries represent vastly different types of rice production. Vietnam has very intensive rice production in the delta regions, with methane emissions estimated to be above 20% of all national greenhouse gas (GHG) sources. In Bangladesh and Colombia, this percentage is less than 10% and 1%, respectively.

The 18-month program will establish a central information hub as basis for developing a network of demonstration sites to illustrate the benefits of AWD+. Program proponents envision technical and policy guidelines integrated into decision-support tools for implementing climate change mitigation initiatives in rice production.

IRRI and CIAT are members of CGIAR, a consortium of 15 international agricultural research centers dedicated to a food-secure future. Within CGIAR, research work on climate change is coordinated by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Research Program (CCAFS).

To learn more about this program, contact:

Dr. Reiner Wassmann
Coordinator of Climate Change Research
International Rice Research Institute
Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines

Dr. Björn Ole Sander
Climate Change Specialist
International Rice Research Institute
Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines