Rice farming has long been a staple of Asian agriculture, but it comes with a significant environmental cost. Research shows that rice paddies are responsible for 11% of the world’s methane emissions. There are more than 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 intermittent irrigation methods could reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) output of rice fields by 70%.
Challenging Tradition: Rethinking Rice Field Irrigation
At Begawan, we are spearheading a transformative approach to rice farming to tackle this issue. Traditionally, rice fields have been flooded to suppress weed growth, but through extensive research, it has been discovered that rice is not a water-intensive plant, and flooding is unnecessary for optimal yield productivity. By challenging conventional methods and minimising water usage, we aim to reduce methane gas emissions associated with rice farming. By embracing innovative techniques, we are committed to mitigating the environmental impact of agriculture, increasing heritage rice yield and paving the way towards a more sustainable future.
Spanning almost 2 hectares of rice fields planted with the esteemed Mansur Heritage Rice, Begawan’s rice farming signifies a progressive step towards sustainable and regenerative agriculture. To facilitate meticulous data collection and ensure accurate results, a turbine water flow meter has been integrated into the Subak water filter system. This sophisticated setup allows for real-time monitoring of water flow, a crucial factor in our heritage rice cultivation project where we collaborate with local farmers in Bayad, Melinggih Kelod. Additionally, the experiment will extend its scope to measure methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) originating from rice fields. We will employ the state-of-the-art Picarro gas analyzer under the guidance of Pak Alit from the Balai Penerapan Standar Instrumen Pertanian (BPSIP) Bali.
Deciphering Data: Collaborative Expertise for Impact
While the groundwork is robust, the true potential of this initiative lies in the hands of experts adept at deciphering and analysing the intricate data generated by the Picarro gas analyser. Collaboratively, the concerted efforts of experts like Steven Lansing, Pak Alit, Begawan’s team and our dedicated farmers are poised to redefine rice cultivation paradigms. This collaboration promises to bring depth to this pioneering initiative. The broader objective of achieving enhanced yield and cultivation practices in harmony with the environment underscores the significance of these experiments, not just for the immediate community, but as a blueprint for sustainable agriculture across the region.
Begawan is set to team up with Professor Lansing, serving as the primary data contributor from our rice fields which are free from synthetic fertilisers and agrochemicals. This collaboration underlines a commitment to collective research efforts that can redefine the landscape of rice farming, promoting a greener, more sustainable future.