Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Philippines: IRRI expert presents farmer-friendly technologies to help reduce carbon footprint of rice production

IRRI has been doing research on rice straw management to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

Bjoern Ole Sander, a candidate for scientist to support IRRI's climate change research, presented several options to reduce the carbon footprint of rice in a special seminar on January 14 at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Headquarters.

In addition to the more familiar alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technique, Dr. Sanders discussed other climate-smart options such as using new varieties that have shorter duration or hybrid varieties with lower emissions per grain yield, and improved straw management.

To prevent more greenhouse gases (GHGs), Dr. Sander emphasized, the straw must either be incorporated in an optimized way or used for other purposes, such as mushroom or energy production. In relation to this, researchers and scientists from IRRI, who are currently working on areas related to rice straw, formed a straw management research group to better understand the trade-offs between different rice straw options. Led by the Postharvest Unit, some of the on-going activities of the group include energy balance analysis of rice straw, life cycle assessment of rice straw, and research on rice straw chopper. The group is also conducting research on rice straw greenhouse gas emission in collaboration with the Climate Unit.

Dr. Sander also discussed new projects where stakeholders can be better engaged to not only receive technologies, but be the center of development and dissemination to be able to reduce GHGs in the long run.

One of these is the new paddy rice component funded by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), which is hosted by the United Nations Environment Program, and is a partnership involving 40 governments and 53 non-state entities. The rice component—one of three under the CCAC agriculture initiative—comprises several activities to help promote AWD in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Colombia. These activities include mapping out areas suitable for AWD and establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships for in-country planning. This inter-center collaboration together with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is supported by CCAFS, the research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

In another CCAFS project, Dr. Sander suggested the promotion of Participatory Mitigation Selection, an approach inspired by the successful participatory varietal selection in plant breeding. This farmer-oriented approach will encourage farmers to choose what specific mitigation option they prefer. Under this scheme, the adjustment of technology becomes more site-specific and locally suitable. Dr. Sander underscored in his presentation that, although political will to mitigate GHGs is there, roadmaps to accomplish such are lacking and must be given attention. Also, the benefits and incentives of mitigation options—not the mitigation effect itself—need to be highlighted for successful technology adoption. Moreover, strong partnerships are crucial inasmuch as the approach should be multidisciplinary for climate-smart options to be adopted.

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