Info

a Yield index: Percentage of brown rice yield after the treatment against that before the treatment bIn most cases, soils corrected from B horizon in the mountainous area were dressed cDressed with lake or river sediment a Yield index: Percentage of brown rice yield after the treatment against that before the treatment bIn most cases, soils corrected from B horizon in the mountainous area were dressed cDressed with lake or river sediment

Composting of organic inputs may offer another agricultural practice that could reduce GHG emission (Yagi and Minami 1990; Corton et al. 2000). Moreover, compost application also results in very low N2O emissions during the rice crop, that are approximately 50% lower than the emissions from rice fields treated urea (Zheng et al. 2000). However, CH4 emissions during anaerobic composting process could counterbalance gains observed after the incorporation in to the soil. This emission during composting can be reduced to a greater extent through aerobic composting techniques. Organic amendments derived from aerobic composting of rice straw, significantly reduced emission as compared to fresh straw (Corton et al. 2000).

16.7.7.2 Adjusting Straw Incorporation

Crop production inevitably results in large amounts of straw residues that are typically left in the fields. Straw is often burnt to prepare the field for the next cropping cycle; especially the wheat straw is burnt almost all over the Asian rice-wheat belt (Ladha et al. 2000). Removal or burning of residues ensures farmer's quick seedbed preparation and avoids the risk of N immobilization during decomposition of residues with wide C: N ratio (Beri et al. 1995). Incomplete combustion of carbon, which is generic to smoldering fires of harvest residues generates substantial amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) and other pollutants and thus, have adverse effects on local air quality. Moreover, the burning process also releases methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.

Straw incorporation influences methane emission, in two ways depending on the amount of straw added. It either increases methane emission during 2-3 week period following permanent flooding season (Sass et al. 1991) or induces early seasonal increase in CH4 emission with incorporated straw probably due to direct transformation of straw carbon to methane through microbial activity in the soil. When straw incorporation causes an increase in methane emission over the whole season, rice grain yield decreases proportionately. It may be due to the fact that an addition of straw causes an increase in root biomass, exudation and root decomposition. Addition of rice straw compost increased CH4 emission by 23-30% as compared to the 162-250% increase in emission with the use of fresh rice straw (Corton et al. 2000). In contrast, composts of cow dung and leaves decreased CH4 flux (Agnihotri et al. 1999). Inducing aerobic degradation through the addition of organic matter may significantly reduce CH4 emission (Yagi et al. 1997), but at the some time, this might increase N2O emission by nitrification of released ammonium.

In addition, an increase in methane emission with additional straw amendments depended on the method of application. Addition of rice straw also stimulates CH4 emission from flooded rice paddies. Application of rice straw at 5tha-1 and 12tha-1 increased CH4 efflux rates by factors of 2.0 and 2.4, respectively, relative to those of unamended control plots; but in plots amended with rice straw at 24tha-1 or composted rice straw at 60 tha-1, no further increase in CH4 emissions was noticed (Schutz et al. 1989). Kludze and DeLaune (1995) reported that rice straw applied at the rate of 11 tha-1 enhanced CH4 emissions, whereas 22tha-1 of rice straw retarded CH4 emissions. In a study, Rath et al. (1998) showed that the addition of rice straw distinctly increased CH4 production in alluvial soil at all moisture levels [-1.5MPa and -0.01 MPa (non flooded), 0MPa (saturated) and at a 1: 1.25 soil: water ratio (flooded)]. These results also raise the importance of many currently unknown sources of CH4, such as organic-amended non-flooded soils, as contributing to the global CH4 budget. Bossio et al. (1999) reported that straw incorporation practices altered the organic matter availability, CH4 pool and flux dynamics of rice soils, and increased emissions per unit available organic matter. However, the use of compost, among the different sources of organic materials, is considered as one of the effective means of mitigating CH4 emissions from rice fields (Neue 1993; Wassmann et al. 1993; Minami and Neue 1994).

No doubt, many studies have reported that rice straw increases CH4 emission (Nugroho et al. 1994; Yang and Chang 1997; Chidthaisong et al. 1999), but in Japanese paddy fields, because of aerobic decomposition during the fallow period, the application of straw in the previous autumn or winter decreased CH4 emission compared to just before transplantation (spring) (Hadi et al. 2001; Matsumoto et al. 2002). However, there was no difference in CH4 emission between winter application (application two-month prior) and no application (Minamikawa and Sakai 2006). Composting of rice straw is also effective in decreasing CH4 emission because of aerobic decomposition outside the field (Yagi and Minami 1990; Chidthaisong et al. 1999). Burned straw also decreases CH4 emissions from fields (Bossio et al. 1999), but CO2 emissions are increased due to burning of straw.

16.7.8 Cultivars Choice

Since there is a wide variation in CH4 emission among the rice cultivars, selection of low CH4 emitting rice cultivar may be one of the strategies to contain CH4 emission from paddy fields. Usually different cultivars of rice are selected to obtain higher yields with better quality. Characteristics of several rice cultivars, like rice growth and yield, plant conductance of CH4 transport and concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the soil play several important roles in CH4 emission. Selecting and breeding the rice cultivars, that emit lower CH4, are a desirable approach because of easy adoption. Therefore, four different points that should be kept in mind for the selection of rice cultivars that emit low CH4 are (1) varieties that has low exudation of carbon from roots, (2) that have the efficiency of a low CH4 transport and a high CH4 oxidation in the rhizosphere depending on the specific aerenchyma system in roots and shoots, (3) that have a higher harvest index in order to reduce organic matter into the soil after harvest and the last one (4) that are suitable and have a high productivity when the other mitigation options are performed.

Difference in cultivars can lead to an order of magnitude difference in methane emission (Parashar et al. 1996). In a study of five rice cultivars in irrigated fields near Beijing, China, it was observed that methane emission during the tilling-flowering stage varied by a factor of two (Lin 1993). These studies show a significant variation in methane emission, which is solely dependent on cultivars choice. Cultivars choice by individual farmers could thus greatly influence regional and global estimates of methane emission from the rice fields. The wide variation of traits and related emission rates among cultivars open the possibility for the choice of existing cultivars and the breeding of new cultivars as a method for mitigation of methane emission. Some cultivars may have more or less efficient conduits for the removal of methane from the soil through the rice plant, others may deposit more or less organic matter in the soil during the growing season or may be able to transmit more or less oxygen to the rhizosphere, thus raising the redox potential of the soil system or in other ways altering the bacterial response of the rhizosphere. In other cultivars, differential allocation of translocated carbon may even promote higher grain yield in preference to root processes and eventual methane production and emission. Methane emission may also be affected by differences among cultivars in the number of tillers, root biomass, rooting pattern, root respiration and other physiological variables.

16.7.9 Role of Microbes

All above discussed mitigating options are mostly applicable on a field scale and feasible for the farmers. These options basically affect the ecology of microorganism, but insights into microbial ecology have been disregarded in field-scale mitigation.

Variations in CH4 emission from paddy fields are attributable mostly to variations in methanotrophic activity (Schutz et al. 1989), indicating that methanotrophs are suitable organisms for controlling CH4 emission (Adachi 2001). Therefore, stimulation of the populations and/or activity of methanotrophs can decrease CH4 emission. Anaerobic CH4 oxidation occurs in ecosystems other than paddy soils (Alperin and Reeburg 1985; Iversen 1996). Although there have been no reports of the isolation of bacteria that affect anaerobic CH4 oxidation (Kumaraswamy et al. 2000), the possibility of anaerobic CH4 oxidation in paddy fields has been suggested by Miura et al. (1992) and Murase and Kimura (1994).

Amann et al. (1995) reported that probably less than 1% of bacterial species have ever been isolated. The microorganisms, that have been isolated, are not necessarily those that are the only, or the most active, ones in the soil (Le Mer and Roger 2001). As suggested by Kumaraswamy et al. (2000) and Schimel (2000), further microbial studies will enable us to predict ecosystem behaviors and the ecological significance of diversity and community structure.

The production of CH4 is controlled by flow of carbon (C) and electrons to the microbial community of methanogens during anaerobic organic matter degradation process. Also, thermodynamic constraints of in situ reactions involved and changes in the composition of microbial community affect methane production (Conrad 2002). An understanding of the in situ processes involved on a microscopic level provides leads for developing strategies for controlling methane production and emission. Conrad (2002) has reviewed the existing knowledge of microbiological data, microscopic processes, and other factors relevant for the control of methane production in wetland rice fields.

In principle, mitigation in methane production can be achieved by adding electron acceptors and oxidants. However, electron-acceptors, such as ferric iron or sulphate, are preferred for their role because they allow iron reducers to successfully compete for substrates, hydrogen and acetatae, with methanogens. This stops methane production and emission.

16.8 Conclusion

Paddy fields are one of the major anthropogenic sources of CH4 emission. For a long time, India - a large producer of staple rice food, was surmised to be major contributor to global methane budget. However, this myth was cleared when the Methane Campaign 1991 and subsequently Methane Asia Campaign 1998 categorically proved that India contributes only one tenth (3.61-4.0Tg/Yr) of the EPA projections (37.8Tg/Yr). But still, there is scope to reduce CH4 emission from paddy fields through various mitigation strategies, like water management, use of nitrification and methane inhibitors, pesticides, changes in cultural practices and crop diversification, soil amendments, selection of cultivars, and use of fermented manures. If such efforts are made globally, it will cut drastically CH4 emission from paddy fields and certainly help to postpone the danger of climate change.

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