FOCUS ON RICE
For several reasons, rice has swept over the traditional cultivation of millets: ease of cooking, high value in world markets, symbol of the advancement in the society, etc…
Let us take the example of India.
India is first in terms of rice planted area, second to China in terms of quantity. In 50 years, nearly half the area where millets were cultivated has been used for the cultivation of other crops, mainly rice and wheat.
It is having a cost for the environment.
Flooded fields of rice are one of the major sources of methane in
the world…(second largest source of methane from agriculture after animal
In a flooded field,
anaerobic conditions develop due to the absence of oxygen. This drives the bacteria in the soil to release methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times more dangerous than carbon
dioxide.So, reducing the production of rice will
be an effective way of fighting global warming.
…and rice is a large user of water (3500 to 5000 litres per kilogram of grains).
And it is not only well watered countries that cultivate rice: It is a product with a high value in world markets and farmers are ready to squander their water reserves to produce it.
Let us consider India again. Today, a third of cultivated land is used for rice (42% of grain growing land).The relation between agriculture and hyper consumption of water is proved : in 1995, 90 % of overexploited regions were situated in 6 states that had the best yields in rice or wheat. Farmers become vulnerable due to dried-up wells and are no longer able to pay off debts (loans for farm inputs and seeds).
The current tendency of farmers to mindlessly pump the water of the ground is a real ecological suicide.
An increase of production of rice is regularly put forth as an answer to the growing demands for food (a 60 % increase of rice cultivation in 30 years).With such a pressure on resources isn’t it sheer madness? Would it not be better to consider crop diversification and include more millet?
It is a fact that rice has become an integral part of new world food habits. Alternate cultivation methods will have to be found:
FAO suggests draining rice fields in intervals. But doing so will use up 2 - 3 times more water than continuous flooding, increases emission of another greenhouse gas (N2O) while filling water again, and is moreover difficult to put into use.
The SRI rice is of high interest. Difficulties might be encountered with the implementation and this method has to be supported through consumer awareness.
There is a producer of SRI rice certified organic: ‘Bloomagro’ in Indonesia.
For long, there are “plains” rice that are not traditionally flooded. But, this means more work. Weed control is a major reason for flooding fields. Seeds banks in India are making tremendous efforts to conserve these seeds.