Pick Up

438. Intensification for Sustainable Rice Cultivation

Related Research Program


Rice is the staple food of half the world's population, accounting for 21% of caloric intake. Its consumption is expected to continue to increase in the future. However, the increase in rice yields is stagnant in many parts of the world, and the production of rice requires large amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, which generate greenhouse gases, raising concerns about the impact on the environment. A key question is how to direct research and development on rice in order to produce more rice while minimizing the environmental impact.

The research paper reported in Nature Communications assesses yield gaps (the difference between achievable yield and current yield) and resource-use efficiency (water, pesticides, nitrogen, labor, energy etc.) in 32 rice cropping systems covering half of the world's rice area in order to ensure sufficient rice supply in the coming decades with minimal negative impact on the environment. The results of the assessment showed that achieving high yield and high resource-use efficiencies are not conflicting goals, and that most cropping systems have room to improve yield, resource-use efficiency, or both. Furthermore, by focusing on improving a relatively small number of cropping systems with large yield gaps or low resource-use efficiency, the study found that overall, rice production could be increased by 32% and excess nitrogen could be reduced. On the other hand, there are cropping systems in  sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian countries that do not receive sufficient nitrogen fertilization, and improved nutrient management practices are expected to contribute to increased yields.

JIRCAS has been developing improved crop and nutrient management practices suitable for the rice growing environment in sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim of achieving sustainable rice cultivation in the region


  • Yuan, S., Linquist, B.A., Wilson, L.T., Cassman, K.G., Stuart, A.M., Pede, V., Miro, B., Saito, K., Agustiani, N., Aristya, V.E., Krisnadi, L.Y., Zanon, A.J., Heinemann, A.B., Carracelas, G., Subash, N., Brahmanand, P.S., Li, T., Peng, S., Grassini, P. 2021. Sustainable intensification for a larger global rice bowl. Nature Communication. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27424-z
  • Tsujimoto, Y., Rakotoson, T., Tanaka, A., Saito, K., 2019. Challenges and opportunities for improving N use efficiency for rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Plant Production Science 22, 413-427.
  • Asai, H., Kawamura, K., Saito, K. 2021. Yield response of upland rice to mineral fertilizer as affected by soil texture and precipitation in sub-Sahara Africa. Field Crops Res. 272, 108284.
  • Rakotoson, T., Tsujimoto, Y., Nishigaki, T. 2022. Phosphorus management strategies to increase lowland rice yields in sub-Saharan Africa: A review. Field Crops Res. 275, 108370.
  • RIMG8178.JPGRIMG8147.JPGPress release & blog post NCOMMS paper_c

Contributor: SAITO Kazuki (AfricaRice / Social Sciences Division)