How to reduce methane emissions from rice production
Rice – a staple food for more than 3.5 billion people worldwide – is responsible for nearly two per cent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This hefty climate footprint is due to the way that the crop is typically cultivated, which leads to the emission of the greenhouse gas methane from flooded fields. These emissions happen because of the lack of oxygen in the soil, which creates the ideal conditions for methane-producing microbes.
To reduce methane emissions and other negative environmental impacts, there are some simple practices farmers can adopt. UK startup Nice Rice is incentivising these practices by bringing sustainable rice products to supermarket shelves. Working closely with partners like OLAM (a member of the Sustainable Markets Initiative's Agribusiness Task Force) to work with farmers in India, Nice Rice works to the Sustainable Rice Platform Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation (SRP), which includes practices like alternate wetting and drying, which reduces the microbial production of methane in the soil.
Chemical use is another key concern of the SRP, and the farmers Nice Rice works with are focusing on reducing the amount of chemical inputs they use, as well as working with Good Shipping to reduce the emissions from transporting the rice from India to the UK. They also do not burn the leftover rice stubble at the end of the season, as is standard practice on many farms. All these practices almost halve emissions, resulting in products that offer a saving of 1.23 kilogrammes of CO2-equivalent per kilo of rice compared to conventional alternatives.
Nice Rice currently pays its farmers a small premium to commit to the SRP long term, and its ultimate goal is to catalyse the take-up of sustainable practices – which are not widely adopted today – by creating consumer demand, starting with customers at UK supermarket Waitrose.