Programmes

Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change 

 

Sustainable Agriculture Promotion Scheme (SAPs)

Kadoorie Conservation China Department has been collaborating with various partners to research and promote the multiplication and advancement of sustainable agriculture in China.

The objectives are:

1. To strengthen the scientific basis of identified sustainable agriculture techniques;
2. To promote networking among pioneers of sustainable agriculture in China;
3. To encourage the multiplication of sustainable agriculture by raising the profile of identified projects, people and institutions.

Rice and Climate Change

We started in 2010 with a study on “Rice and Climate Change” that focused on reducing greenhouse gases in paddy fields. The inaugural 2010 theme of SAPs was “Rice and Climate Change”. Four projects were selected as Sustainable Agriculture Pioneers. Researchers on the selected projects have received funding from KFBG to explore ecological rice farming techniques. Besides considering the productivity, we are looking into the methane emissions from the various systems: rice-duck; rice-fish; aerobic rice and rice plastic-mulch technology. Methane is twenty times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide and though it currently occurs at far lower concentration, it is the second most critical greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

Recipients of the 2010 KFBG Sustainable Agriculture Pioneers Awards

Name

Affiliation

Research Topic

Prof. Wang Huaqi

China Agricultural University (Beijing)

Methane Emissions in Improved Upland Rice Production

Prof. Lu Shihua

Soil and Fertilizer Institute, Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (Chengdu)

Rice-Plastic Mulch Technology and Methane Emissions

Fang Yuen (Agronomist)

College of Agriculture, Guangxi University (Nanning)

Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Research

Dr. Zhao Benliang

Prof. Zhang Jia’en

South China Agricultural University (Guangzhou)

Reduction of Methane Emissions in Rice-duck Cultivation Systems and the Mechanisms Involved

 

Rice-mulch Technology

We looked into the methane emission of rice-duck, silicon-rice-duck, rice-fish, aerobic rice, and rice-plastic mulch technology, and promoted the successful models to the wider farming community. One of those innovative and encouraging techniques is the rice-plastic system, which was developed by Prof. Lu Shihua of the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences. A layer of plastic mulch could keep the soil warmer, retain moisture and make the soil more biologically active, speeding up crop growth. It could tremendously increase rice yield and reduce costs, as a result of reduced labour, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide needs; and this technology is slowly spreading in recent years.

 

In Shuanghe Village, Dongxi Town, Ziyang City, Sichuan Province, the average organic rice yield is 724 kg/mu (10.86 tons/ha) under plastic-mulch technique. This is a very high yield, breaking the organic rice yield barrier which is only 350-400 kg/mu at most. As a comparison, non-organic chemical-based rice production in the same area has an average yield of 510 kg/mu (7.65 tons/ha), while non-organic chemical-based methods using plastic mulch with 66% reduction in chemical fertilizer use and no herbicide, gets an average yield of 670 kg/mu (10.04 tons/ha). The whole village has now converted to organic production, and sells their organic rice under the brand name, “New Heavenly Organic Rice”. Compared to conventional (chemical-based) rice farming, the plastic-mulch technique reduced overall greenhouse-gas emission by 11%. The adoption rate had now reached more than 400,000 hectares. The only drawback of the technology is the plastic sheets that need to be properly recycled.

The succeeding research topic was “Mulch-No Till and Agroforestry” in 2012 in collaboration with the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and proved mulch-no till system could reduce farm inputs, labour, increase productivity and retain more carbon in the soil. 

 

Rice-duck Cultivation System

To minimise the use of harmful chemicals in rice paddy, Kadoorie Conservation China Department introduced the rice-duck farming technique in Hainan and Guangxi to control pests and weeds. Duck’s droppings fertilise the rice and their swimming actions aerate the soil for better rice growth. More importantly, it saves labour and the ducks can be consumed in time with the rice harvest festival. This is one of the most synergistic rice farming systems, and also reduces methane emissions.

Fish in rice paddy fields also help fertilise the rice and control pests, though not as effectively as the ducks. But with fish in the paddies, farmers are deterred from using pesticides, therefore reducing river pollution. However, the rice-fish system could not significantly reduce methane emissions.

Aerobic rice production, (rice grown on dry land instead of flooded paddies), has the lowest methane emission. But aerobic rice farming has lower yields compared to the paddy system, making farmers reluctant to adopt it.