Aaccording to indonesia According to legend, rice was given to the island of Java by the goddess Dewi Sri. She took pity on the lack of cassava, the staple food of local residents, and taught them how to grow rice seedlings in the lush green rice fields. In India, the Hindu goddess Annapurna is said to have played a similar role; in Japan, Inari. Throughout Asia, rice has been given a sacred, often feminine origin story.
This mythologization is understandable.For thousands of years, the starchy seeds of grass plants rice (commonly known as Asian rice) has long been a staple food on the African continent. Asia accounts for 90 percent of the world’s rice production and consumes almost the same amount. Asians get more than a quarter of their daily calories from rice.this United Nations The average Asian is estimated to consume 77kg of rice per year – more than the average consumption of Africa, Europe and the Americas combined (see chart). Hundreds of millions of Asian farmers, many with only a small plot of land, depend on the crop for their livelihoods. Yet the world’s jobs are cracking open.
Global demand for rice — in Africa and Asia — is soaring. Yields, however, have stagnated. The land, water and labor required for rice production are becoming increasingly scarce. Climate change is a more serious threat. Rising temperatures are wilting crops; more frequent floods are destroying them. Rice cultivation is not only a victim of global warming, but also a major contributor, as rice fields emit large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The crops that fuel 60% of the world’s population are becoming a source of insecurity and threats.
Growing demand exacerbates the problem. By 2050, Asia’s population will increase from 4.7 billion today to 5.3 billion, and Africa’s population will increase from 1.4 billion today to 2.5 billion. This growth is expected to drive a 30 percent increase in rice demand, according to a study published in the journal natural food. Only in the wealthiest Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, did bread and pasta begin to erode rice’s monopoly as the continent’s staple.
However, growth in rice productivity in Asia is declining. Yields have grown at an average annual rate of just 0.9 percent over the past decade, down from around 1.3 percent in the previous decade, according to the data. United Nations. Southeast Asia saw the largest decline, with growth falling from 1.4 percent to 0.4 percent. Indonesia and the Philippines already import large quantities of rice.If production does not increase, these countries will increasingly depend on other countries to feed their 400 million people, according to natural food study.
Over the years, production has kept pace with rising demand, thanks to the lingering effects of the Green Revolution that began in the 1960s. To address the problem of low yields, scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (International Water Research Institute), based in the Philippines, develops infrared8. Variety of varieties that thrive due to fertilization and irrigation systems. Introduced when China emerged from famine and India was on the brink, infrared8 proved to be a massive lifesaver.
as infrared8 In Asia, rice production increased from the Philippines to Pakistan. Higher productivity makes rice a more attractive crop, so more resources are devoted to it. Fewer concerns about food security have allowed Asian governments to focus on industrialization and economic growth.
Iri New varieties of rice have been developed that can repeat some of this success. They are more productive and climate resilient and require less water. Still, meeting rising demand looks harder than it did in the 1960s. Urbanization and relentless land subdivision are eating away at the land. From 1971 to 2016, the average farm size in India more than halved, from 2.3 hectares to 1.1 hectares.
This makes it more difficult to increase productivity, especially where labor is scarce. Sowing, resowing and harvesting neatly is a drudgery that Asian workers are increasingly able to avoid. Water is another big input, but even more scarce. In many places, soils are depleted and poisoned by the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides.
No crop is as vulnerable to global warming as rice, scientists say International Water Research Institute. A 2004 study found that a 1°C increase in temperature An increase in minimum temperature resulted in a 10% decrease in yield. Rising sea levels, another consequence of warming, are already causing salt intrusion in low-lying areas of the Mekong Delta, eroding rice yields there. Last year’s severe floods in Pakistan, the world’s fourth-largest rice exporter, wiped out an estimated 15 percent of its harvest.
Rice’s contribution to global warming represents an underappreciated feedback loop. Irrigation of paddy fields deprives the underlying soil of oxygen. This encourages the proliferation of methane-emitting bacteria. As a result, rice production accounts for 12 percent of total methane emissions and 1.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to the aviation industry. Vietnam’s rice fields generate more carbon equivalent than the country’s traffic.
The nutritional quality of rice is another growing concern. Grains are high in glucose, which contributes to diabetes and obesity, and low in two important micronutrients, iron and zinc. In South Asia, the epidemic of diabetes and malnutrition can be traced to an overreliance on rice.
Solving so many problems is complicated. If the first green revolution was about productivity, Jean Balié said, International Water Research Institute, the next one should focus on “systems rather than plant or plot level solutions”. This requires better rice policies and better varieties.
Ineffective or outdated government intervention is at the root of most productivity and environmental problems. They distort markets and reduce incentives for change. Take Sandeep Singh of Bassi Akbarpur, a small village in the northern Indian state of Haryana.Although he grows rice, he prefers to eat barbecue, a bread made from wheat, a crop better suited to Haryana’s hot, dry climate. However, Mr Singh has entered the rice and wheat planting cycle, driven by government incentives.
India buys rice from farmers at guaranteed prices, often higher than market prices. The crop is then sold to the poor at subsidized prices, boosting rice consumption. Fertilizer and water are also subsidized. Such interventions are common throughout Asia. Most were introduced during a period of persistent food insecurity, when the costs of diabetes and the environment were far less of a concern than they are today.
Untangling policy knots that have been tightened for decades is difficult. Farmers are vote banks that governments dare not fight. India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which prides itself on imposing tough but necessary measures, learned its lesson when it was forced to roll back agricultural reforms in 2021 in the face of protests from farmers.
While there is no single solution to the growing rice crisis, there are many partial solutions. In parts of Asia where production is low, such as Myanmar and the Philippines, productivity can be increased without serious environmental damage by using more fertilizers and pesticides.
scientists in International Water Research Institute and other research institutions have developed rice varieties that are resistant to floods, drought and high temperatures. They also produced more nutritious strains. These changes, combined with cultivation innovations such as direct seeding — a method of growing that requires less water and labor — could reduce environmental damage and increase yields.
Experiments across Asia have confirmed this. In Bangladesh, farmers who planted the flood-tolerant rice variety Sub1 had 6% higher yields and 55% more profits, according to a study published in the journal food policy 2021 Field Trial Review global food security It shows that drought-resistant varieties enjoy a yield advantage of 0.8-1.2 tons per hectare.
The challenge lies in adopting improved seeds and methods at scale. Many farmers are unaware of their existence. Some people are reluctant to try new things. A national survey of Indian rice farmers in 2017-18 found that only 26 percent had adopted varieties released since 2004.
Governments can play an important role in highlighting the benefits of new varieties and approaches. Vietnam is leading the way. It recently announced an ambitious plan to plant “low-carbon” rice on 1 million hectares. It promotes this as a means of saving labor and increasing efficiency.Climate scientist Bjoern Ole Sander says promoting emissions cuts as a burden to farmers must be avoided International Water Research Institute.
A Greener Revolution
A bottom-up approach is also important. Agricultural extension workers can play an important role in disseminating knowledge, but are often overlooked by policymakers. Most public farm spending goes to subsidies and irrigation, which tend to favor wealthier farmers with more land.
Governments also need to do more to reduce people’s dependence on rice. At the request of India, United Nations 2023 has been declared the year of Xiaomi. India hopes to sell farmers and consumers the crop, which is more nutritious than rice or wheat and requires far less water. Indonesia is also promoting.Today, only Delhi’s health-conscious hipsters choose Xiaomi Biryani over rice. But where the elite lead, the masses tend to follow. If a big market emerges, it will attract some farmers to switch, and even enthusiastic rice growers to diversify.
The first green revolution averted an Asian catastrophe. Things may be less volatile today, but the challenges are in some ways greater. Countries need to produce more with fewer resources—and care more about the environment. Mr Balié said this amounted to a “true green revolution”, International Water Research Instituteboss.
The payoffs could also be unprecedentedly large. More sustainable cultivation and higher yields will lead to higher and more stable incomes for farmers. This will help them adapt to and reduce their contribution to climate change. This success is not guaranteed, but will help ensure food security for Asians and the world. ■
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