‘Water management in Rice output key to tackle climate change’

"Improvement in water management will also help in reducing methane emissions and arsenic uptake in the rice fields"

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Rice Crop at it's ripen stage Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Improvement in water management will also help in reducing methane emissions and arsenic uptake in the rice fields
  • De-watering is the practice of removing water from the rice paddies, at least once during the season
  • “Adopting some form of aerobic rice production will also reduce the release of arsenic from soils to groundwater, and the subsequent uptake of arsenic by rice plants.”

At a time when climate change is set to impact rice production in Asia, simple water management by farmers as an adaptation strategy will minimise the damage, an expert said.

“Climate change will impact rice production in large parts of Asia, including India. Water management will be a key feature of decisions aimed at adapting to the impacts of climate change,” Dennis Wichelns, Senior Research Fellow of Thailand-based Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), said during the Knowledge Forum on Climate Resilient Development in Himalayan and Downstream Regions held in New Delhi recently.

The event was organised jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Delhi-based IEG.

According to Wichelns, improvement in water management will help in areas where higher temperatures are likely and where shift in rainfall pattern is expected.

In certain areas, crop yields will increase in some seasons, perhaps in response to higher rainfall during the production cycle or with a reduction in summer days in the northern regions. In other areas, yields might be reduced due to higher night temperatures, untimely drought conditions, or submergence caused by massive natural events.

According to Wichelns, improvement in water management will also help in reducing methane emissions and arsenic uptake in the rice fields.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of the anthropogenic releases of methane to the atmosphere are generated in agriculture, largely by livestock and in rice production,” he said.

Paddy field in Japan Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Paddy field in Japan Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“The anaerobic conditions in which paddy rice is produced is largely responsible for the methane generation and release. Methanogenic organisms, which thrive in anaerobic conditions, break down carbonaceous materials and form methane,” he added.

Efforts to reduce methane generation and release in rice production can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emission from agriculture, thus contributing to climate change mitigation,” Wichelns said.

He said rice production generates substantial amount of methane annually, thus adding notably to the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year.

Switching from flooded paddy production to aerobic rice production or to alternative crops that are produced in aerobic conditions can substantially reduce regional methane emissions, Wichelns added.

Nitrous oxide emissions can increase when switching from anaerobic to aerobic production, yet the change in production methods will reduce global warming potential.

“Adopting some form of aerobic rice production will also reduce the release of arsenic from soils to groundwater, and the subsequent uptake of arsenic by rice plants.” Wichelns said.

Arsenic accumulation in rice grain declines sharply when farmers switch from anaerobic to aerobic production methods. Millions of residents of South and Southeast Asia already are exposed to harmful concentrations of arsenic in drinking water. In those areas, and elsewhere, successful efforts to reduce arsenic uptake in rice will be helpful in reducing total exposure, to the benefit of many adults and children who currently consume harmful amounts of arsenic each day, he said.

De-watering is the practice of removing water from the rice paddies, at least once during the season. Normally, paddies are kept flooded for the entire season, from planting to about two weeks ahead of harvest. Substantial methane is generated and released during that time.

“If farmers remove the water for seven to 10 days mid-season, they can substantially reduce methane generation and release. The paddies are re-watered after the de-watering, but the methanogenic organisms will have been greatly reduced during those seven to 10 days,” Wichelns stressed.

The practice allows oxygen to reach the root zone. The oxygen is unfavourable to the methanogenic organisms, yet favourable to rice roots and thus rice productivity. Therefore, the de-watering also contributes to producing more resilient rice plants with stronger root systems, he added.

Much of the rice production in South and Southeast Asia is found in the deltas formed by major rivers, such as the Mekong, Irrawaddy, and Ganges-Brahmaputra. Rice is well-adapted to these deltaic regions, many of which are characterised by monsoonal climates.

“Given the important role of rice production in rural economies across much of Asia, adaptation strategies are needed urgently to ensure that smallholder farmers can continue producing rice for domestic and international markets, while generating sufficient income and ensuring that household and national food security goals are achieved.” he said. (Source: IANS)

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

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    Such methods to reduce methane emissions must be made aware to the farmers. If it is followed in the entire country, the green-house gas emissions can be reduced.

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Back to the Soil With Organic Farming

Here's the story of various people who have returned back to their soil, organically

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Many professionals have returned back to their soil. PIxabay

By Sukant Deepak

A banker from Canada, a resort director, a top executive in a leading IT company and a senior corporate communications professional with a major hospital chain. Defying all stereotypes and preconceived notions of farmhands, an increasing number of highly qualified professionals from both genders are quitting their lucrative professions and getting back to the soil in Punjab full-time,making responsible farming their way of life.

Using social media including WhatsApp to spread the word, participating in pop-up organic farmers’ markets across the region and organising day-long farm tours, these new-age farmers, compost kit makers and teachers are ascertaining that those wanting pesticide-free food grains don’t have to look too hard.

Rahul Sharma’s wife would always laugh when on a typical IT sprint meeting call, he would be discussing his project at Flipkart, and a few hours later, talking about manure collection with a farmer.

This organic farmer who now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time, insists that the ongoing lockdown has made people aware about the importance of growing their own food, and that too pesticide-free. “But yes, if the government is serious about providing nutritional security, then it must ascertain economic benefits to farmers so they can go in for sustainable agriculture,” he stresses.

For someone who started doing organic farming in 2016, the thrill that comes with growing safe food for others is unparalled.”The fact that there is a patch of land which is now free of poison, where life thrives, and that I am contributing towards healthy soil.”

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Rahul Sharma now grows cereal grains, pulses, oil seeds, turmeric and garlic at his five acre farm in Kapurthala full time. Pixabay

Not regretting his switch from a corporate IT job, which never allowed him to pursue his passions like photography, Sharma has now decided to streamline production and ordering process. “I have now a set rotation of crops which provide nutrition to the soil, as well as work well in the consumer market. I am also working on an online platform to make it easier for my consumers to order grains and be in touch with me,” he adds. He also lectures and interacts with school and college students at his farm about the importance of sustainable agriculture/lifestyle.

Shivraj Bhullar, who has a four-acre farm in Manimajra and grows a variety of seasonal vegetables, leafy greens and fruits left his cushy banker job in Canada to start organic farming on his piece of land in 2014 post volunteering at different farms across India to learn the ropes. “The organic farming convention that was held in the region in 2015 brought a lot of people together. Since then, the movement has been growing with greater awareness amongst consumers in this part of the country,” he says. For someone who has always been interested in Yoga and nutrition, one of the major factors that keeps him excited is the community around the organic farming movement in Punjab. “Farmers go out of their way to help each other out. It’s been a humbling and continuous learning experience for me,” he adds.

Planning to take his farm to the next level by installing a drip irrigation system and rain water harvesting for water conservation, Bhullar is all set to buy more animals so as to decrease his dependence on outside sources for manure.

Coordinator of the Chandigarh Farmers’ Market, Seema Jolly, who owns a five-acre farm in village Karoran in Punjab and grows vegetables,fruit, grains, oilseeds and pulses wants her farm to be a school for organic/natural farming, yoga and Ayurveda in the near future. One of the directors of the Baikunth Resorts Pvt Ltd, Jolly started organic farming in 2011 and there has been no looking back since then. “There is a certain joy in knowing that what you supply is not harming the consumer in any way,” she says. Instrumental in organising trips for school children to different farmers across Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, Jolly also helps small organic farmers with logistics and selling their produce. “The organic farmers market initiative, in July 2015 was a landmark in bringing relief to the marketing problems of organic farmers and encouraging more farmers to turn organic. Frankly, what is needed is small markets like these in all districts. It may take time, but people are bound to tilt towards organic if there is easy availability.”

field-soil
There are many people who own farms including Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms. Pixabay

Former National level hockey player Mohanjit Dhaliwal who has two farms — one if Ropar and another in Fathegrah Sahib, the latter being part of permaculture food forest in ‘Sanjhi Mitti Food Forest Community’, has been involved in organic farmer for more than 10 years now. Talking about the roadblocks when it comes to shifting to organic, he feels, that the government’s policy of 100 per cent wheat paddy procurement has to change. “Farmers, who used to be entrepreneurs and solutions finders are now behaving like robots.Nothing is going to change unless policy makers get out of whole process.”

Besides holding regular workshops on permaculture which is attended by people from around the country, Dhaliwal, who is working on a forest therapy centre, adds, ” Our Eco library at the farm where anyone can read or borrow books on related subjects is quite a hit with both children and adults.”

Chandigarh-based Jyoti Arora, who supplies odour-free composters in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh to houses, hotels, institutions, municipalities, and engages with Swachh Bharat teams of different municipalities, says, “I also do a lot of lecture demonstrations to sensitise people and encourage people to go green. In fact, my farming is a by product of the compost generated from my domestic waste in which the produce comes solely out of the compost.”

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Everything changed for Diksha Suri, a former corporate communications head with a major hospital chain when she spent time at Auroville in 2004. “Being there and learning from experts started a journey of a more conscious approach towards the living greens and browns. I attended formal workshops and started experimenting an organic way of living,” says Suri, who, along with a friend set up Chandigarh’s first Nature Club in 2012.

From organising organic farm visits, forest walks and fossil sites for children and their parents, Suri says that she has been able to make hundreds of children conscious about what they eat. “A lot of them are now at ease with composting, growing vegetables, identifying birds, and more than anything, being in sync with nature. We now regularly hold talks and workshops on organic farming, composting, waste management, across schools, colleges and corporate offices in the region.”

Chandigarh-based Rishi Miranshah, who has made the nine-part docu-series ‘The Story of Food – A No Fresh Carbon Footprint’ which is available to watch online on Films for Action website and YouTube says, “Considering what chemicals have been doing to our food and the need to switch to organic, it was important for me to make this documentary which is an investigation, tracing the trail of devastations bringing us to the point where we are today. Food being the thread that connects us to life; and the way we obtain our food being that connects us to a way of life, the movie begins by examining our agri-culture, our very relationship with the land.” (IANS)

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New Reforms and Alternative Markets Likely To Benefit Farmers

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farmers
New reforms will benefit farmers who are reeling under the Covid-19 crisis. Pixabay

The Modi government in order to double the income of farmers by 2022 announced a slew of measures last week, and it is widely expected that these reforms will benefit farmers who are reeling under the Covid-19 crisis. Post Coronavirus as state reopens farmers might benefit.

IANS spoke to Ashok Dalwai, chairman of the Committee for Doubling Farmers’ Income, on the issue of strategic reforms initiated by the government and their importance to the farm sector.

He said the alternative market provided to the farmers will give them more earning power. The reforms will unshackle the agriculture value chains by deregulating the essential commodity trade and introducing a Central law to ease inter-state farm trade, effectively overriding the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis that have shown resistance to change in the past.

“We are not ending the APMC, but reforming it. Till now APMC was regulated by the state governments, now the private sector can establish its own APMC which will give an alternative market to farmers,” Dalwai said.

He said the way the telecom sector provided options to the consumers to choose the operators of their choice, in the same way the private AMPC will give farmers the choice to sell their produce at a better price anywhere in India. “The proposed amendment to the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 will ensure seamless movement of farm produce not only inter-state, but also within the state. Anyone having a central license can buy and sell anywhere,” Dalwai said.

Farmers
Ashok Dalwai says Alternative markets might help corona struck farmers. Pixabay

Dalwai said many states have already adopted the reforms and more will join in the future. “The new law related to APMC will be definitely adopted by the state governments and the Centre will provide the framework for inter-state trade of agricultural produce. If a farmer in UP wants to sell his produce to a market in Karnataka, he does not need to go there. He can do so online. The way e-NAM works for APMC mandis, e-platform will work for such farmers.”

He said the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act has been initiated with the sole purpose to provide better prices to the farmers. The government has also decided to free certain categories of agricultural products such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes from the government’s control and lend more predictability to even export policies.

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On the question of challenges due to Covid-19 with regard to doubling farmers’ income, Dalwai said, “The farmers have not been impacted due to the pandemic. There will be no problem in achieving the target of doubling farmers’ income by the year 2022.” (IANS)

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Urban Agriculture: The Answer To Quality and Nutritious Food

Indoor farming may be a turning point in agricultural practices

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Agriculture
Urban Argriculture the answer to growing quality food & meeting nutritional requirement. Wikimedia Commons

-BY RATNA KUMRIA, SHIVENDRA BAJAJ 

Can climate-controlled freight containers help in farming or can plants grow without any soil? The answers to these questions can be found in Urban farming. It involves indoor cultivation under controlled conditions with up to eight harvests in a year. It offers an ideal solution for regional or community-specific food needs, for local crops that would not be economically viable for full scale cultivation. It can also help cities become self-sufficient in their product demand while getting fresh food the year-round. Vertical urban farming whether with soil or hydroponics-based increases the space utilization by 3-4 fold with lower water and nutrient usage. Therefore, it allows the farmer to have 3-4 fold higher area with 20 per cent faster growth rate, leading to 3-4 fold higher harvests. Multiple harvests in a year would lead to higher profits compared to traditional farming. Indoor farms may use drip-irrigated pots, hydroponics, aeroponics or hydrogel-based polymers for growing vegetables depending on the growth requirements of the plant.

Conventional farms are resource inefficient as about 70 per cent of nutrients and 60 per cent of the water inputs are lost due to runoffs. Further, the plant growth is dependent on soil nutrients and environment. Since crops in urban farms are grown in a closed environment, sometime without soil, they have minimal /no exposure to outside environment and pests. Thus, they require no/minimal pesticide sprays. With lower pesticide usage and transport needs for supplying food, urban farms use lesser fossil fuel. The resource efficient indoor farming that is not overly impacted by the weather is able to provide optimal growth conditions to the plants to maximize the harvest. The set up uses high-efficiency light source, water re-cycling in minimal space, with low electricity usage leading to a reduced carbon footprint. Special light requirements for indoor farming are now met by several organizations which have enabled higher production and cost reductions over longer period. Environment controlled containers, greenhouses or poly-houses on land or roof-tops are some of the options for climate resilient urban farming.

The structural design of indoor farming units and turn-over time for efficient harvests have limited it to few compact crops, especially leafy salads. A crop variety suitable for urban farms needs to be small, compact, early flowering and having early maturing fruits. Currently about 65 herbs, micro-greens and leafy greens, including broccoli, Italian Basil, Crystal Lettuce, mint, coriander, tomatoes etc are being grown in indoor farms. Brahmi, an Ayurvedic traditional medicine used to improve memory and to treat inflammatory diseases, etc. is also being cultivated using hydroponics. Indian urban farmers can expand on their crops if more local crops are bred for compaction and shorter growth cycle. The Indian scientists have the skill and competency to enable urban farmers grow many more crops efficiently, especially in zones with extreme weather and water scarcity.

The digitization of farming has enabled extensive data collection throughout the cultivation cycle. The analysis of the growth and environmental parameters can help design better nutrient regimes, improved growth and faster maturity for crops to maximize output. In indoor farms, these optimizations include temperature, light spectrum and nutrient pH. Artificial intelligence (AI) can also be used for analysis and better optimizations. These optimizations would lead to improved futuristic design of the farms as well as resource utilization to make them more sustainable.

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Indoor agriculture in today’s time may solve many problems. Pixabay

The produce requirements of large cities, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, are met through supplies from the suburbs and distant locations, therefore, their quality is dependent on storage conditions and the distance travelled. Urban farming can overcome these variables to make cities self-sufficient in their fresh produce. In India, indoor farming is majorly confined to metros and major cities that have a demand for organically grown farm fresh produce like spinach, mint, lettuce, thyme, basil, tomatoes and strawberries, but many progressive Indian farmers too have turned to urban farming techniques for exotic small crops like broccoli, red and yellow capsicum, cherry tomatoes, etc.

Many nations are growing and exporting indoor farm produce, especially leafy vegetables, fruits and flowers. Pioneer amongst them are the Netherlands, they are the top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables that are grown in climate-controlled indoor farms. Considering the small set-up requirements, capital and proximity to the market, indoor farming is ideal endeavour for start-ups. In the past decade a dozen such start-ups have come up around major cities in India. They have got some support from universities, ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) and organizations like a-IDEA (Association for Innovation Development of Entrepreneurship in Agriculture) and NAARM (National Academy of Agricultural Research Management) in Hyderabad. Recently, in the US, the USDA has established a new Urban Ag Office and announced USD three million in new grants. In other countries, there are several private companies that provide infrastructure, equipment for indoor farming both for home and commercial setup. Companies (such as Contain Inc.) are coming up with alternate finance options for indoor growers, for greenhouse or containers.

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With the right support from the Government, interest from young agri-tech startups, training programs and greater awareness amongst the urban population regarding the opportunity as well as quality offered by indoor farming, it can gain popularity and contribute to the nutritional needs of the urban India. (IANS)