A Facebook post was shared with us via WhatsApp saying that climate “scientists” are claiming that rice farming is a “dangerous” emitter of greenhouse gases due to the methane produced by flooded rice fields.
The claim is true. Rice farming, according to scientists studying climate change and agricultural practices, is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases, particularly methane. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a much higher potential for warming than carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming and climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 10% to 15% of the world’s methane emissions come from flooded rice fields. According to their 2014 Climate Change Synthesis Report, rice cultivation is a significant source of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is produced in flooded rice fields as a byproduct of the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter, which accounts for 1.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a renowned environmental organization that conducts research on various environmental issues, states in their analysis that rice cultivation is responsible for approximately 11% of global methane emissions. They highlight that reducing methane emissions from rice farming is crucial to mitigating climate change.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations agency dedicated to food and agriculture issues, rice cultivation is a major contributor to methane emissions and has emphasized the importance of adopting improved farming practices to reduce these emissions.
Rice cultivation involves flooding the fields to create an oxygen-limited environment, which is necessary for rice production. In flooded rice fields, the absence of oxygen conditions encourages the growth of particular microbes that produce methane as a byproduct of their metabolic processes, according to an article posted on Science Direct, a source for scientific, technical, and medical research. During the growing season, methane is then released into the atmosphere.
Methane: what is it?
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Because there is insufficient oxygen in the soil when rice fields are flooded, methane can flourish there. The type of rice, the quantity of water used, and the management techniques employed all have an impact on the amount of methane released from rice fields. But on average, it’s thought that 12% of the world’s methane emissions come from rice farming, according to the Center for International Earth Science Information Network.
” Reducing methane emissions from rice farming can be achieved through several methods. Firstly, using less water in flooded rice fields can decrease methane production. Secondly, selecting rice varieties that emit less methane is another effective approach. Lastly, implementing alternative management practices such as periodic drainage to aerate the soil can reduce methanogenic archaea and subsequently lower methane emissions. These efforts are crucial in combating climate change and promoting a sustainable future for rice production while safeguarding the environment.” The International Food Policy Research Institute states
It’s true that climate scientists do acknowledge that rice farming is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases, specifically methane from flooded fields. However, there is some disagreement among scientists regarding whether it can be labeled “dangerous” compared to other sources of emissions. Factors such as the scale of methane emissions, the importance of rice production as a staple food, and the environmental costs of alternative food sources need to be considered. Efforts are underway to reduce methane emissions through sustainable agricultural practices in rice farming, acknowledging the environmental impact and striving for mitigation. The complex nature of this topic necessitates an understanding of the various factors involved.