Climate-Friendly Rice Study Trip

27 June 2016

Climate-Friendly Rice Farming Field Schools are ongoing and have entered their third learning stage. Farmers participating in field schools have already learned about seed selection, seedbeds, land preparation and planting. Important material will be provided later on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from paddy rice cultivation. GELAMAI is collaborating with the Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute (BALINGTAN), which has the capacity and laboratories for measuring agriculture sector GHGs. By way of introduction, agriculture offices and farmer groups from GELAMAI partner districts undertook a study trip to the BALINGTAN laboratory in Jakenan, Pati, Central Java on 2 June 2016.

The purpose of the BALINGTAN laboratory study trip was to provide all participants with a clear illustration of BALINGTAN’s low-emission rice cultivation management efforts. Another aim was to enable climate-friendly rice cultivation field facilitators and farmers to collect GHGs directly from rice paddies.

During the first session, participants were given explanations introducing them to GHGs and their sources from rice paddies, and also on BALINGTAN’s efforts to develop low-emission rice cultivation. BALINGTAN gave a presentation and showed a film to illustrate that Indonesia is being adversely affected by global warming caused by the accumulation of gases in the atmosphere. Though GHGs have accumulated naturally, human activities that produce emissions are increasing the concentrations of GHGs in the upper layers of the atmosphere, which causes global warming.  One activity causing these emissions is rice farming.

The second session was a visit to a field laboratory, which provided a variety of information on environmentally friendly farming management, including bio-remediation, the use of simple technologies to absorb pesticides in irrigation channels, farming management integrated with fisheries and livestock, and research into measuring emissions from various rice varieties. In principle, the application of climate-friendly rice farming is an effort to synergize climate change adaptation and mitigation with continued high productivity.

Adaptation efforts are applied through improved water management, the construction of retention basins and irrigation canals, the development of new species or varieties that are adaptable to environmental threats, and the use of crop calendars to help farmers predict planting seasons. GHG mitigation, meanwhile, is applied through intermittent irrigation, selecting low emission rice varieties, efficient fertilizer application and integration with livestock.

Intermittent irrigation means providing water to rice only when needed. Rice is not an aquatic plant and does not need to be flooded continuously. Rice plants do require a lot of water during their vegetative and generative phases. However, at certain times rice paddies only need to be lightly inundated to create oxygen rich fields, so roots can respire and macro-organisms can actively increase soil fertility.

Rice varieties also play an important role in the emission of the greenhouse gas methane (CH₄) from paddy fields. BALINGTAN research shows that approximately 90% of CH₄ released into the atmosphere from rice paddies is emitted by rice plants, and the remainder through water bubbles (ebullition). Efficient fertilizer application based on Leaf Color Charts (LCC) can prevent fertilizer wastage and can reduce GHG emissions.

The integration of crops and livestock is a recommendation of integrated low-emission agricultural cultivation technologies. Such systems can utilize crops for animal feed and convert animal waste to biogas, which can lower the volumes of CH₄ released into the air. The waste from biogas can then be used as crop fertilizer and for improving soil fertility.

The final session of the study trip involved practicals on the collection and measurement of gases in rice paddies. The practicals were undertaken by field facilitators and farmers representing the study participants. The BALINGTAN team taught them techniques for collecting gas from rice fields and showed them how to take measurements using laboratory gasometers. These measurement techniques will be carried out five times per cropping season in the climate-friendly rice cultivation field trial sites.