Farm sector urged to reduce chemical use
MANILA, Philippines–Rice farming may have to wean itself from manufactured chemicals in order to produce more amid ever-rising global demand, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The United Nations agency said in a statement that cereal-based farming systems—including the cultivation of corn and wheat—must shift to sustainable agriculture if they were to meet “unprecedented demand” for the grains.
The FAO said farms “will have to raise production with less water, fossil fuel and agrochemicals, on farmland that has been widely degraded by decades of intensive crop production.”
It said that in Asia, the degradation of soils and the buildup of toxins in intensive paddy systems had raised concerns that the slowdown in yield growth reflects a deteriorating crop-growing environment.
International experts that the FAO gathered in a meeting earlier this month agreed that agriculture can no longer rely on input-intensive agriculture to increase crop production.
The recommendation is that improved rice varieties must go along with the so-called “Save and Grow” farming systems.
This refers to an approach that keeps the soil healthy; where crop, tree and animal production are integrated; water is used more efficiently; and crops are protected with integrated pest management.
Last March, senior agriculture officials in Asia and the Pacific cobbled up a regional template that would serve as a guide for individual countries to formulate their respective strategies on rice production.
The FAO noted that there were several “potential technological options” in raising productivity by intensifying rice production in a sustainable manner.
Examples cited include the use of genomics or conventional breeding to identify the functions of rice genes; developing C4 rice (a breed that uses sunlight more efficiently); prospecting and mining of data on the traits of rice genes; and engineering a rice breed that can naturally convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into ammonium.
The FAO cites different forecasts for the years until 2030, which suggest that global demand for rice will be in the range of 503 million to 544 million metric tons.
This means demand will grow at an average 1 percent yearly from 439 million MT in 2010, due to the increase in population. Ronnel W. Domingo
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