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As a widely consumed global food staple, rice production has come under scrutiny for its environmental consequences such as high greenhouse gas emissions and excessive water consumption. To alleviate negative impacts, farmers have adopted organic production methods or started cultivating their rice crops with climate-friendly and regenerative agriculture techniques. While both approaches aim to mitigate environmental damage, there are key differences between both approaches.

Climate-Friendly Rice produces drastically less methane emissions and is a more practical climate solution at a lower price point for rice customers in the Food & Beverage industry. Additionally, organic agriculture produces significantly lower yields when compared to Climate-Friendly farming, creating a challenge for feeding a growing population.

A Dexter, Missouri farm in AgriCapture’s Climate-Friendly Rice program.

Organic Rice Production: Eliminating Chemicals and Prioritizing Biodiversity

Organic agriculture produces crops with natural methods by avoiding synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. The environmental benefits of organic rice cultivation include:

  1. Reduced Chemicals: By eliminating chemical inputs, organic rice production minimizes the risk of chemical residues in the soil and water. This approach contributes to the preservation of environmental quality and human health.
  2. Biodiversity: By avoiding chemical inputs, organic farming creates a favorable habitat for various plant and animal species, promoting ecosystem health and resilience.

Because of prohibited inputs, organic production presents weed management and operational challenges for farmers. Without herbicides, organic rice fields must remain flooded throughout the growing season to manage weeds. A fully flooded rice system produces and releases high levels of methane.

Alternatively, farmers have the option to manage weeds with repetitive tillage passes, but excessive tilling of the field can degrade soil health and release carbon into the atmosphere. Ultimately, farmers are forced to deplete soil carbon or increase methane emissions.

Farmers also cite operational challenges, like high labor costs, as a requirement to keep fields flooded or tilled to prevent weeds in organic farming. “Since we used to grow organic rice, switching to climate-friendly farming made things a lot easier for us. It requires less tillage trips across the field, less wear and tear on our equipment, and less diesel fuel,” says Carter Ellis, a Climate-Friendly Rice Farmer in Missouri.

Carter Ellis in front of his Climate-Friendly Rice fields.

Climate-Friendly Rice Production: Reducing Emissions and Conserving Resources

In the AgriCapture Climate-Friendly Rice program, farmers cultivate rice with regenerative techniques that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water, and improve soil health. Detailed benefits of Climate-Friendly Rice cultivation include:

  1. Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Climate-friendly farming reduces methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas released during rice cultivation, by over 70% compared to organic and conventional rice. Techniques such as Furrow Irrigated Rice (FIR) and Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) significantly limit methane production, lowering the carbon footprint of rice crops. Additionally, efficient fertilizer application maximizes nutrient uptake while minimizing nitrous oxide emissions.
  2. Water Conservation: Improved water management is crucial in cultivating a water-intensive crop like rice. Climate-friendly irrigation promotes efficient water usage, helping to preserve this essential resource. Alternate Wetting and Drying has been proven to reduce water usage by over 30% compared to conventional flooded field irrigation.
  3. Improved Soil Health: Alternative rice straw management practices and minimum tillage reduce air pollution and return organic matter back to the soil.

Climate-Friendly Rice fields on a Missouri farm are watered with a furrow irrigation system, to save water and reduce methane emissions.

Climate-Friendly Rice: A Long-Term Climate Solution

Climate-friendly cultivation surpasses organic production in actively addressing crucial environmental concerns including methane emissions, water conservation, and soil health. Additionally, Climate-Friendly Rice provides cost savings to ingredient purchasers and rice consumers due to its economic viability at a price point significantly below organic premiums.

Organic farming ultimately results in higher methane and water consumption compared to climate-friendly systems, as producers are forced to use high-emitting farming practices to naturally manage weeds. Organic agriculture faces limitations in meeting growing food demand because restricted use of fertilizer tends to produce lower yields. Organic farming requires more land, more water, and more methane to achieve comparable yields to other cultivation systems. In contrast, Climate-Friendly Rice production has much higher and more consistent yields than organic rice, creating a sustainable alternative that is more viable in the long run.

While both methods have their advantages, Climate-Friendly Rice is a more sustainable growing system that addresses key environmental concerns while feeding a growing global population. By significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water management, and optimizing soil health, climate-friendly farming practices offer a scalable and cost-saving alternative to organic rice. As we strive for a greener future, embracing Climate-Friendly Rice cultivation is a vital step towards a healthier planet.

Climate-Friendly Rice is milled to create high-quality white or brown rice.

Learn more about AgriCapture Climate-Friendly Rice here.