Global AgricultureFarming and Agriculture

Bayer, GenZero, and Shell collaborate to reduce methane emissions in rice cultivation

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07 August 2023, Mumbai: Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of agriculture and healthcare, in collaboration with GenZero, a Temasek-owned investment platform company dedicated to accelerating decarbonization globally, Shell Energy India Private Limited, a subsidiary of Shell Plc and investor in nature-based solutions, and other experts, is pleased to announce their efforts to develop a robust model to showcase the scalability of methane emissions reduction in rice cultivation. The proposed approach will include training, support, and guidance for smallholder farmers while utilizing Measurement, Reporting & Verification (MRV) mechanisms incorporating remote sensing technology. The project aims to set a benchmark for similar efforts in the rice decarbonization space.

Paddy rice cultivation is responsible for approximately 10% of global methane emissions[1], a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential over 27 times that of carbon dioxide. Rice farms occupy 15% of the global farm area, equivalent to more than 150 million hectares worldwide[2]. It also consumes around one-third of the global fresh water[3]. To address the challenges of climate change and limit global temperature rise, a significant and scalable effort is required to promote methane emissions reductions in rice cultivation.

Bayer over the last two years has already done the necessary groundwork and initiated a pilot Sustainable Rice Project across India. It started with an aim to generate carbon reductions by encouraging rice farmers to switch from the current practice of transplanting with continuously flooding fields to Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) that involves controlled and intermittent flooding and Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) that involves no transplanting operations and very limited flooding.

With this collaboration in place, the Program in its first year aims to significantly scale up its coverage to 25,000 hectares of rice cultivation during the Kharif 2023 and Rabi 2023-24 seasons. Any success achieved during this first year will pave the way for the implementation of an even larger-scale sustainable rice project. Beyond greenhouse gas reduction, the program is expected to generate other benefits such as water savings, soil health improvement, and enhanced community livelihoods for smallholder rice farmers.

To ensure scientific accuracy and credibility, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a globally renowned scientific institution, will provide valuable support in conducting scientific assessments of greenhouse gas reductions, water use reductions, and improvements in soil health.

Speaking about the program, 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 program, we aim to get more insights into how regenerative agricultural practices can contribute to mitigating climate change by way of methane emission reductions, water conservation, and soil health improvements and drive the sustainable development of smallholder farmers. Having the expertise and support of organizations 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. Decarbonizing rice cultivation is therefore essential for fighting climate change and addressing food security challenges. With this program, 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 program 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.”

The collective expertise and resources of Bayer, GenZero, Shell, IRRI, and others, marks a significant step towards addressing the environmental impact of rice cultivation and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Also Read: UPL SAS partners with Olam Agri to advance sustainable sugarcane farming in India

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