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Greenhouse Gases can be Curbed from Rice Agriculture

Uzair Firdausi

Shubhankar a rice farmer, wakes up at 5:00 A.M. in a village called Rajendrapur, about 55 kilometers from Kolkata. He gets out of his home and starts watering and fertilizing his rice fields. The rice fields are flooded with two inches of water and then fertilized with urea, ammonium sulfate, and manure, among others. After concluding his work on the farm, he would work as a daily laborer in a resort near his land, for which he will receive Rs. 300 for the day Due to COVID 19 and the closure of the resort he no longer has that avenue of income open to him.

“My soil has become more infertile over the years, despite growing mustard in the offseason. My yield has reduced steadily over time”, says Subhankar. The rice farmers in India face problems relating to the yield, productivity, and quality of the crop. Farmers like Subhankar have, in the past, tried to combat this by increasing the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.

Rice is a staple food crop in the Indian subcontinent, the states in eastern India being especially dependent on it. Rice has a major implication on the Indian economy as well. India accounts for 22% of the world’s rice production, India is the second-largest producer of rice in the world. The world population consumes the most amount of calories from rice.

Estimates have suggested that 2.5% of all anthropogenic climate change comes from rice cultivation. But a recent study conducted in India by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA found that intermittently flooded rice farms can emit 45 times more nitrous oxide as compared to constantly flooded. main greenhouse gas that is emitted from rice fields is methane that is produced by the bacteria produced in the flooded fields. In addition to methane, nitrous oxide is also a major greenhouse gas that is emitted from growing rice.

Fertilizers applied to crops and pastures (mostly synthetic fertilizers but also manure and other sources) were responsible for estimated emissions of 1.3 Gigatons of Carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e) in 2010. Nearly all these emissions result from the manufacture, transportation, and application of nitrogen. World Resources Institute (projects that these emissions will rise to 1.7 Gt by 2050. Cattle comprise 43.5% of livestock in India and release large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. Livestock account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Another problem faced by rice farmers, especially in West Bengal, is the high arsenic content in the groundwater. 83 blocks across 7 districts having higher than the permissible limit. While newer breeds of rice that are resistant to arsenic are being found, , they were thought to be lower yielding, but newer research suggests that the yield is no lower than before. The World Health Organization claims that long term exposure to Arsenic through food and drinking water can cause poisoning as well as cancer.

Edited by Purvai Parma Shivam and Tanishaa Vikas Jain