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481. Sustainable Rice Production: Adapt Production Systems to Changing Climatic Conditions and Reduce Environmental Impacts

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Agriculture is both a contributor to climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a heavily impacted economic sector. As climate change accelerates at an unprecedented rate, countries and regions need to take measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change. For rice cropping systems, which are important for many countries in Asia and Africa, there is a need to respond to climate change while improving productivity to maintain food security. 

This article summarizes some of the best practices that can be implemented to improve or maintain the productivity of rice cropping systems from the FAO report Crops and climate change impact briefs. Chapter 5 of the report titled "Sustainable rice production” introduces the best practices that can be implemented to increase or maintain the productivity of rice farming systems at risk from climate change. This chapter is intended to be a reference for policymakers, researchers, and other groups and individuals working to support enhanced sustainable crop production, and will help to adapt rice cropping systems to increased biotic and abiotic stresses resulting from changing climate conditions and to reduce GHG emissions.

1. Adaptation approach to climate change
The FAO report has proposed a four-step approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation, based on lessons learned in the field, to reduce both the impact of climate change on crop production and the impact of crop production systems on climate change.
1)Assessing climate risk
2)Prioritizing farmers' needs
3)Targeting agronomic solutions
4)Scaling up successful interventions

The agronomic solutions in this approach consist of the following practices:

1. Conservation agriculture
    Diversification of crop production, sustainable mechanization.
    Strip based non-puddling transplanting.
    Crop stubble retention.
2. Use of improved crops and varieties suited to local conditions.
3. Efficient water management
Improved water use efficiency, system of rice intensification (SRI), alternate wetting and drying (AWD), upland rice.
4. Integrated pest management

2. Climate change mitigation approaches

In rice production systems, methane emissions, especially from anaerobic decomposition of organic matter, and nitrous oxide emissions from the application of nitrogen fertilizers can be reduced. Climate change mitigation measures include mid-season drainage and intermittent irrigation to reduce methane emissions, dry-season seeding, use of short-duration varieties, laser land leveling, machine transplanting, sustainable mechanization, proper management of rice straw, site-specific nutrient management based on soil fertility, and use of biochar and biofertilizers. These adoptions can bring co-benefits to the environment and human health, and significant economic benefits to farmers and farming communities.

3. Enabling policy environment

Policymakers should assess the impact of current agricultural and non-agricultural agreements and policies on climate-smart agriculture (CSA), taking into account national development priorities before formulating new policies. Potential trade-offs should be addressed and, where possible, avoided, reduced, or compensated for by leveraging the synergies generated by the three objectives of CSA, namely, sustainable production, adaptation, and mitigation. Understanding the socio-economic and gender barriers and incentives that affect the adoption of CSA is also critical in developing and implementing policies.

Since CSA involves scaling up of specific climate-smart practices, it requires strong political commitment as well as coherence and coordination among various sectors working on climate change, agricultural development and food security. Therefore, the participation of relevant stakeholders and the platforms formed by multi-stakeholders are important to create a viable policy environment. The following initiatives and platforms provide a foundation for sustainability in rice production, supporting governments and linking the public and private sectors with research institutions and international organizations that promote the adoption of climate-resilient agricultural practices.

Hadi, H.J.B. et al. (2022) 4. Sustainable rice production, Adapting production systems to changing climatic conditions and reducing environmental impacts. Crops and climate change impact briefs. FAO. 115-152. https://www.fao.org/3/cb8030en/cb8030en.pdf

Contributor: KANAMORI Norihito (Information and Public Relations Office)