Rice Farms Produce Far More Greenhouse Gases Than Thought

Posted: Sep 11 2018, 3:50am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 11 2018, 4:02am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Rice Farms Produce Far More Greenhouse Gases Than Thought
Farmers prepare a paddy field to cultivate rice in Naypyidaw on July 28, 2018

New study find that rice farming across the world is up to twice as bad for climate change as previously estimated.

In the quest to decrease global warming, researchers from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have discovered that rice farms with intermittent flooded technique can release around 50 times more nitrous oxide as compared to the continuously flooded farms. Nitrous oxide is a quiet yet strong contributer to global warming. It is even more potent than methane or carbon dioxide. New study suggests that we can mitigate the climate impact of this potent greenhouse gas with improved agricultural practices.

Nitrous oxide, a long-lived atmospheric pollutant, comes from many sources including farm fields or agriculture soil. Researchers have found that cultivation of rice with intermittent flooding is not good for climate. The technique begins with flooding a field, then allowing water to drop below the soil level multiple times per year. Nitrous oxide increases when farmers let the rice fields dry before being wetted again.

"When the soils are frequently wetted and dried, they repeatedly become ideal environments for microbes that produce nitrous oxide.” Lead author Kritee Kritee, senior scientist at the EDF, explained.

Most previous studies on the climate impacts of rice were focused on methane emissions from continuously flooded rice farms, which is another major greenhouse gas emitted by rice paddies. Intermittent flooding reduce methane emissions but it can increase nitrous oxide emissions. Since rice is the staple food of more than half the world's population, nitrous oxide emissions from rice farms could significantly contribute global warming.

"The full climate impact of rice farming has been significantly underestimated because up to this point, nitrous dioxide emissions from intermittently flooded farms have not been included," said Kritee, Ph.D., senior scientist at EDF and the lead author of the paper. "Increasing pressure on limited water resources under a changing climate could make additional rice farming regions look to intermittent flooding to address water limitations and concerns about methane emissions.”

To understand nitrous oxide impact of rice farming, researches closely looked at flooding regimes and measured nitrous oxide emissions at a diversity of rice farms across the world. Researchers found that nitrous oxide emissions released from intermittently flooded rice farms across the world might be 30 to 45 times higher than current estimates. That’s equivalent to annual climate pollution from 200 coal power plants.

“We now know nitrous oxide emissions from rice farming can be large and impactful," said study co-author Richie Ahuja. “We now also know how to manage the problem. Major rice producing nations in Asia are investing to improve the agriculture sector and could benefit from the suggested dual mitigation strategies that lead to water savings, better yields, and less climate pollution."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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