Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Rice-Wheat Cropping Systems in Asia

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Abstract

The rice-wheat belt comprises nearly 24–27 million ha in South and East Asia. Rice is generally grown in flooded fields whereas the ensuing wheat crop requires well-drained soil conditions. Consequently, both crops differ markedly in nature and intensity of greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, namely emission of (1) methane (CH4) and (2) nitrous oxide (N2O) as well as the sequestration of (3) carbon dioxide. Wetland rice emits large quantities of CH4; strategies to CH4 emissions include proper management of organic inputs, temporary (mid-season) field drainage and direct seeding. As for the wheat crop, the major GHG is N2O that is emitted in short-term pulses after fertilization, heavy rainfall and irrigation events. However, N2O is also emitted in larger quantities during fallow periods and during the rice crop as long as episodic irrigation or rainfall result in aerobic-anaerobic cycles. Wetland rice ensures a relatively high content of soil organic matter in the rice-wheat system as compared to permanent upland conditions. In terms of global warming potential, baseline emissions of the rice-wheat system primarily depend on the management practices during the rice crop while emissions from the wheat crop remain less sensitive to different management practices. The antagonism between CH4 and N2O emissions is a major impediment for devising effective mitigation strategies in rice-wheat system - measures to reduce the emission of one GHG often intensify the emission of the other GHG.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.