A major greenhouse gas culprit is… rice?

rice paddy

Flooded rice paddies emit methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global-warming damage on a scale that eclipses coal-fired power plants, vehicular exhaust, and other sources of carbon dioxide.”There is no other crop that is emitting such a large amount of greenhouse gases,” said Reiner Wassmann, a climate-change specialist.

Anerobic bacteria decompose organic matter underwater in the flooded rice paddies, producing methane in the process. Changing the ways that rice is farmed will help, but obviously, this will be a massive undertaking, especially considering rice is a staple food for billions of people.


  1. Methane from other crops can be reduced by eliminating overfertilzation. I wonder whether there is an approach that would reduce methane emissions for rice… considering a good part of the world eats little else.

  2. The more I think about this, the more it apppears there’s a fallacy: all organoic matter produces methane as it decomposes. The problem with rice is not that it produces methane, but the rate at which it produces methane. But it’s just giving it all quickly rather than spreading the same amount of methane over a period of time– much like the difference between a quick dose of medicine and slow release. Both contain the same amount of drug.

    This suggests that rice is not really worse than other crops, just quicker. The only way to eliminate the methane produced by organic matter is to capture it and burn it– which in turn produces CO2. (Or else reduce the amount of living material on the planet, which may be the Bush administration approach.)

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