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Mongabay: Bali rice experiment cuts greenhouse gas emissions and increases yields

Claire Turrell

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“After we finished ploughing, we would bathe the cows and then relax in the field playing flutes,” said Jero Dodo, who has farmed the rice terraces of Tabanan, Bali, since he was 12 years old. While he speaks fondly of the past, the farmer has one foot in the future. Dodo, who spoke to Mongabay by phone, recently took part in a groundbreaking study that could not only put a dent in greenhouse gas emissions but also change the way rice farmers plant their fields.

Rice paddies are like mini power stations. Each stalk acts like a chimney and shoots greenhouse gas from the soil into the air. In particular, rice paddies are responsible for 11% of the world’s emissions of methane, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. More than 90 percent of the world’s rice is grown on some 200 million rice farms in Asia.

Results from a study by scientists I Wayan Alit Artha Wiguna of the Balai Pengkajian Teknologi Pertanian Bali and Steve Lansing of the Santa Fe Institute suggest changing irrigation methods could reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) output of rice fields by 70%. Working in collaboration with farmers in Bali’s Tabanan regency, they found they could not only reduce GHG emissions but also use less water and boost crop yields.

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