, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 65-88

Agronomic aspects of wetland rice cultivation and associated methane emissions

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Abstract

Wetland rice cultivation is one of the major sources of atmospheric methane (CH4). Global rice production may increase by 65% between 1990 and 2025, causing an increase of methane emissions from a 92 Tg CH4 y−1 now to 131 Tg in 2025.

Methane production depends strongly on the ratio oxidizing: reducing capacity of the soil. It can be influenced by e.g. addition of sulphate, which inhibits methanogenesis. The type and application mode of mineral fertilizers may also affect methane emissions. Addition of organic matter in the form of compost or straw causes an increase of methane emissions, but methane production is lower for materials with a low C/N ratio.

High percolation rates in wetland rice soils and occasional drying up of the soil during the cultivation period depresses methane release. Water management practices aimed at reducing emissions are only feasible during specific periods in the rice growing season in flat lowland irrigated areas with high security of water availability and good control of the water supply. Intermittent drying of soils may not be possible on terraced rice lands.

Assuming a 10 to 30% reduction in emission rates per unit harvested area, the global emission may amount to 93 Tg CH4 y in 2025. A reduction of global emissions seems very difficult. To develop techniques for reducing CH4 emissions from wetland rice fields, research is required concerning interactions between soil chemical and physical properties, and soil, water and crop management and methanogenesis. Such techniques should not adversely affect rice yields.