Rice and the environment

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IRRI’s crop and environment research develops better management options for rice farmers to make rice farming more productive, eco-friendly, and resilient to climatic extremes and other challenges.

We study rodents and other pests, diseases, and weeds as well as soil, nutrient, and water management. We investigate practical and affordable mechanization options and management practices to ensure diversified rice cropping systems—where rice is grown in rotation with other crops—are sustainable. We design cropping systems adapted to climate change and find ways to reduce emissions. We develop new and adapted management strategies needed to accompany the introduction of new rice varieties better able to cope with drought, submergence, and salinity.

Our research will lead to the development of more ecologically sound management principles and resource-conserving technologies that support the further intensification and diversification of rice systems, particularly in Asia.

In Africa and Latin America, where there is more land and water available for growing rice, our work will help ensure growth in rice production is sustainable.

IRRI’s crop and environment research is part of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), Theme 3: Ecological and sustainable management of rice-based production systems.


Climate change
Climate change poses an additional problem on the world’s agricultural and natural resource systems that must already cope with growing food demand due to population growth in many countries. IRRI not only adapts rice to the effects of climate change but explores ways to reduce greenhouse gases from rice production.

Soil and nutrient management
Soils support life, and without soils, many of the world’s living organisms will find it difficult to survive and thrive. Besides forests and grasslands, this includes economically important plants like rice, which feeds more than half of the world’s population.

Coping with water scarcity
Like all living things, rice needs water for its growth and development. But rice also needs to be able to produce good yields despite water scarcity. It is estimated that rice uses 30 percent of freshwater used for crops worldwide. And in Asia, more than 80 percent of developed freshwater resources are used for irrigating rice.

Drought, submergence, and salinity management 
Farmers who earn a living from areas that are unfavorable owing to problems of flooding, drought, or salinity oftentimes do not get enough rice for the whole year or are steeped in poverty. IRRI develops, tests, and validates management options to help farmers cope with these problems.

Crop health 
Healthy rice plants are a major consideration for farmers and our work involves helping them tackle their problems on insect pests, rodents, nematodes, diseases, and weeds.

Diversified cropping systems
Diversifying rice systems in rotation with other cereals like wheat or maize, high-value crops like potato, legumes, or fodder crops is one way rice farmers can optimize their use of resources.


Rice Crop Manager
Rice Crop Manager is a computer- and mobile phone-based application that provides farmers with fertilizer advice matching their particular farming conditions.

WeedSmart is a decision-support tool primarily designed to help farmers manage their fields by providing information that will guide them to efficiently manage and control weeds.