That rice on your plate? It’s connected to climate change. When rice is grown in the traditional way – in a flooded field – it creates a lot of methane, a potent global warming gas.

Monitoring in an Arkansas rice field. Photo credit: Whitaker Farms.

So the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit, has identified three techniques that reduce methane emissions without hurting productivity.

One. Sow the seeds – then flood fields. Two. Instead of keeping a field flooded, drain the water before adding more. Three, drain fields seven to ten days early.

Since rice farmers anywhere in the U.S. can sell carbon reduction credits into California’s cap-and-trade carbon program, growers using these techniques are earning money for the amount of methane they’ve reduced.

EDF’s Robert Parkhurst, hopeful on ag approaches.

Robert Parkhurst, director of agriculture greenhouse gas markets at the Environmental Defense Fund, says these growing methods can also be applied to rice production in other countries.

Parkhurst: “Everything we learn here can be applied to rice growing regions across the world. We’re actually working with colleagues in India and Vietnam to figure out how to take this to scale there.”

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Parkhurst is optimistic that this is just the first of many agricultural solutions that can help slow global warming.

Reporting credit: Colleen Pellissier/ChavoBart Digital Media.

More Resources
Carbon markets in agriculture are the next big thing
Rice growers on the front lines of U.S. carbon markets
American Carbon Registry
American Carbon Registry Rice Briefing
Air Resources Board approves rice cultivation carbon offset protocol, expands forestry offset protocol (includes a link to the actual protocols)
U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report – 1990-2013

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...