Rice is the staple diet of many countries, and a major part of the global population, especially Asian, make their living from the cereal. Rice cultivation has been a major occupation among people since the beginning of civilizations. But, how many of you know that the centuries-old practice of rice cultivation could be harmful to the environment? Seeing that the world has survived despite years of ploughing, it is nevertheless a fact that traditional rice cultivation methods have an adverse affect on the environment.
In the days past, these harmful methods did not have such a major impact, may be because they didn’t have hazardous materials polluting the environment as we do now. So realizing the adverse effects of traditional rice cultivation now has taken on a bigger picture, so as to save the planet we step on in every single possible way.
If you are wondering how cultivation can get on the bad side, then here they are laid out for you. For one, rice requires a large amount of water. As we all know, fresh water is so hard to come by these days, and bulk water consumption creates a problem.
There’s a method involved in the cultivation, namely wet tillage or puddling, which involves flooding of rice fields. This flooding causes soil erosion and has a negative effect on the biochemical processes occurring inside the soil.
Moreover, wetlands have been known to emit high levels of methane, a greenhouse gas. Then, there’s the added danger of the stagnant water acting as the breeder ground for many water-borne diseases like malaria.
In order to combat these situations, a new system of cultivation has come out of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India. A teacher-student team of the UAS, comprising Dr Shivashanka G and Dr Shailaja Hittalmani, developed this concept as part of their doctoral thesis.
The concept is called Aerobic Rice and has proved to be major breakthrough in the conventional farming methods. The highlighted point of this method is that it addresses the issue of water scarcity and also being aerobic, doesn’t produce greenhouse gases.
Yield is not an issue as this method has shown that the harvest can be put on the same scale as that got from traditional methods. Aerobic Rice can be affected in any field that is not flooded through the cropping season, like slightly sloping lands or sandy lands that have a higher degree of percolation unlike lowlands.
With the increase in cost of land, labor and seed threatening farmers, Aerobic Rice helps save on these issues. Moreover, farmers can claim income from carbon credits.
The fields also do not harbor any diseases or pests. The well-ventilated well-spaced rows of plants ensure you have ample space to do mixed-cropping with pulses, vegetables or oilseeds (and this cannot be done by the traditional methods!).
This technology should be a relief to the farmers and to the population of a country at large, where rice is the main constituent of their diet. This technology, if correctly copied onto the fields around the world, can make drought-tolerant and a tougher strain of rice, without hurting the soil that nourishes us.