Rice cultivation, while vital for global food security, presents a significant environmental challenge due to its contribution to methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. Bayer, a world-renowned life science enterprise, has joined forces with GenZero, Shell Energy India Private Limited, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), among other experts, to address this critical issue. Together, they are unveiling a comprehensive model aimed at showcasing the scalability of methane emissions reduction in rice cultivation, with the potential to set a benchmark for similar initiatives globally.
Rice cultivation, particularly paddy rice farming, is a significant source of methane emissions, accounting for approximately 10% of global methane emissions. This greenhouse gas possesses a global warming potential of over 27 times that of carbon dioxide. Moreover, rice fields consume a substantial amount of water, around one-third of the global freshwater supply, exacerbating water scarcity concerns. These challenges necessitate a concerted effort to reduce methane emissions while promoting sustainable water usage.
Bayer, with its core competencies in agriculture and healthcare, has taken the lead in this initiative. Over the past two years, the company laid the groundwork through a pilot Sustainable Rice Project across India. This pilot project focused on transitioning rice farmers from continuous flooding practices to more sustainable methods, such as Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) and Direct Seeded Rice (DSR). These practices involve controlled and intermittent flooding and, in the case of DSR, no transplanting operations.
In collaboration with GenZero, an investment platform committed to global decarbonization, and Shell Energy India Private Limited, an investor in nature-based solutions, Bayer’s program seeks to significantly scale up its efforts. The program’s first-year target is to cover 25,000 hectares of rice cultivation during the Kharif 2023 and Rabi 2023-24 seasons. This expansion will contribute to greenhouse gas reduction and yield benefits such as water savings, improved soil health, and enhanced livelihoods for smallholder rice farmers.
A key component of this initiative involves the implementation of robust Measurement, Reporting, & Verification (MRV) mechanisms, bolstered by remote sensing technology. These mechanisms ensure the scientific accuracy and credibility of the program’s outcomes. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a globally respected scientific institution, will play a pivotal role in conducting assessments related to greenhouse gas reductions, water use reductions, and improvements in soil health.
Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, Country Divisional Head of Bayer’s Crop Science Division for India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, emphasized the program’s dual purpose: solving food security and climate change challenges through regenerative agricultural practices. This approach aligns with Bayer’s commitment to sustainable development and addresses pressing global issues.
Frederick Teo, CEO of GenZero, highlighted the urgency of decarbonizing rice cultivation, especially in a prominent rice-producing country like India. By encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices among smallholder farmers, this collaboration aims to reduce water consumption and methane emissions, supporting the transition to a low-carbon agricultural industry.
Flora Ji, Vice President of Nature-Based Solutions at Shell plc, underscored the importance of nature-based solutions like this rice cultivation project in combatting climate change and promoting sustainable development. The program’s outcomes will contribute to the deployment of nature-based solutions at scale.
Dr. Ajay Kohli, Deputy Director General for Research at IRRI, emphasized the significance of public-private partnerships in transforming food systems. The collaboration between Bayer, GenZero, Shell, IRRI, and others leverages collective expertise and resources to enhance the productivity and sustainability of the agricultural sector.
The collaborative efforts of Bayer, GenZero, Shell, IRRI, and other experts mark a crucial step toward addressing the environmental impact of rice cultivation. By demonstrating the scalability of methane emissions reduction and sustainable farming practices, this initiative has the potential to catalyze similar endeavors worldwide. With a focus on regenerative agriculture, innovation, and responsible corporate citizenship, these organizations are paving the way for a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.
Image provided by Bayer