Bayer has already taken the initiative to launch a pilot Sustainable Rice Project across India. The inception of this project was driven by the aim to generate carbon reductions by motivating rice farmers to transition from the prevalent practise of transplanting via continuous flooding fields. Instead, the project advocates for alternatives like Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD), characterised by controlled and intermittent flooding, and Direct Seeded Rice (DSR), a method that eliminates transplanting and involves minimal flooding.
With the collaborative framework in action, the programme’s inaugural year is geared toward an ambitious expansion, encompassing a substantial coverage area of 25,000 hectares for rice cultivation during both the Kharif 2023 and Rabi 2023-24 seasons. The achievements realised within this crucial first year are envisioned as stepping stones toward the eventual implementation of an even larger-scale sustainable rice project. Beyond its primary focus on greenhouse gas reduction, the programme is projected to yield an array of ancillary benefits, including water conservation, enhancements in soil health, and upliftment of community livelihoods for smallholder rice farmers.
To ensure the highest standards of scientific precision and credibility, the project enjoys the invaluable support of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a globally renowned scientific institution. The IRRI will play a pivotal role in meticulously conducting scientific assessments concerning greenhouse gas reductions, reductions in water usage, and improvements in soil health.
Speaking about the programme, Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, Country Divisional Head, Crop Science Division of Bayer for India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka said, “Bayer’s commitment to rice cultivation is two-fold. Through our focus on rice, we want to solve two of the biggest challenges impacting humanity, namely, food security and climate change. With this programme, we aim to get more insights into how regenerative agricultural practises can contribute to mitigating climate change by way of methane emission reductions, water conservation, soil health improvements and drive sustainable development of smallholder farmers. Having the expertise and support of organisations like GenZero, Shell, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and others will go a long way in developing the ecosystem for faster adoption of such sustainable practices”.
Frederick Teo, CEO of GenZero, said, “Rice is one of the leading sources of methane emissions, with India being the second largest producer of rice globally. Decarbonising rice cultivation is therefore essential for fighting climate change and addressing food security challenges. With this programme, we aim to transform the future of rice cultivation by driving the adoption of alternative wetting and drying as well as direct seeding techniques across smallholder farmers in India. The aim is to reduce the amount of water required for farming across many water-stressed agricultural regions in India and reduce methane emissions arising from rice cultivation, supporting the transition of the agricultural industry towards a low-carbon future.
Flora Ji, Vice President Nature Based Solutions, Shell plc said, “Nature-based solutions, like this rice cultivation project, are an important additional tool in addressing climate change and contributing to sustainable development. We look forward to the outcome of this programme to further strengthen capabilities and leverage novel technologies to deploy nature-based solutions at scale.”
Speaking about the collaborative initiative with Bayer, Dr. Ajay Kohli, Deputy Director General for Research, IRRI said, “Public-private partnerships are an effective way to transform food systems, leveraging the strengths and resources of both sectors to achieve common goals. Such partnerships in agricultural science can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of research and development. By combining the strengths and resources of both sectors, and also sharing knowledge and capacity-building, thus enhancing the overall productivity and sustainability of the agricultural sector.”