(Photo credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

Rice is often grown in flooded fields called paddies. When it’s farmed this way, it uses more water than any other crop in the world. But rice plants do not need to be submerged in water all season long.

“If you keep rice watered at certain periods, then you don’t have to flood the field,” says Nazirahk Amen, an organic farmer in Takoma Park, Maryland.

His rice grows much like a conventional vegetable crop: in rows, with drip irrigation. He says the goal is to keep the field saturated when the plants need the water the most.

“And with that, we’ve been able to produce rice with about a third of the water that’s used in paddy production,” Amen says.

Amen is not alone in growing rice this way. Around the world, people are experimenting with less water-intensive methods, partly because flooded fields emit a lot of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Growing rice with drip irrigation, however, reduces methane emissions. It conserves water. And recent research suggests it can improve yields, too.

So there could be many benefits to this approach, whether it’s used on a small farm in suburban D.C. or in the vast rice fields of Asia.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.