The cultivation of rice has always appeared to be environmentally-friendly. After all, most rice is produced in paddies. Water buffalo churn up the soil, most of the fertilizers used are organic, and the planting and harvesting is done by hand. But organic matter and flooded conditions provide a perfect home for anaerobic (living without air) bacteria that produce methane.
Methane is lethal to most plants. Rice plants remove 90 percent of this toxin from the soil by acting as gas vents, releasing the methane to the atmosphere. Before rice was cultivated, this trait was a simple solution ensuring the plants’ survival. But now that rice is intensively cultivated, the fields are suspected of releasing as much as 115 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year. Methane is a greenhouse gas and, molecule for molecule, it traps 20 times the heat that carbon dioxide does. When conditions are right, some of the methane is converted into methyl halides known to damage the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
I find the above information both intriguing and a bit scary. Here we are worrying about the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and most of the developing world is probably dumping a greater ratio of methane into the atmosphere. Check out the link, I have been subscribed to killerplants newsletters for years now and always find something of interest the daily emails from Chelsie Vandaveer…
Being as there are large areas of my area in rice cultivation, I find the methane information of rising concern. Maybe we should build covers over the fields and capture the methane for power production?