Thursday, May 8, 2014

Setting environmental footprint indicators in rice production

CORIGAP coordinator Grant Singleton discusses yield gaps.
The Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint (CORIGAP) Project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation aims to increase the productivity of irrigated rice systems while reducing the environmental footprint. An environmental footprint, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is the “impact of a person or community on the environment,” or the demand on resources in the environment.

Rice’s environmental footprint, or demand on the environment, includes land use, water use and quality, energy, ecological systems, and soil quality. However, for the Project to know whether it is successful in reducing rice’s environmental footprint, indicators need to be identified. An indicator is a standard measurement: it represents an environmental process that can be monitored over decades. Indicators at the farm level could be profitability and efficiency in the use of water, nutrients, fuel, and pesticide. At the landscape level, indicators could be water quality, biodiversity in plant and animal populations, global warming potential, salinity, and others.

A workshop on setting environmental footprint indicators relating to rice farming ecology was held on 18 November 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand, one of CORIGAP’s partner countries.

Mr. Chanpithya Shimphalee, director general of the Thailand Rice Department, gave the opening remarks. Fifty participants from different bureaus of the Rice Department, government offices, Chainat Rice Research Center, Nakhon Sawan Rice Seed Center, Kasetsart University, and IRRI, attended the workshop. Grant Singleton, CORIGAP project coordinator, presented an overview, plans, and progress of the project as well as the draft environmental footprint indicators for Thailand.

IRRI environmental scientist Estela Pasuguin summarizes
 environmental indicators in rice production
Estela Pasuquin, IRRI environmental scientist, summarized rice production environmental indicators at the farm and landscape level. After the discussion of appropriate indicators in rice farming ecology, the participants were grouped to select priority indicators. Two groups included soil and water as part of the priority environmental footprint indicators. One group suggested prioritizing all the indicators since they are interrelated.

Ruben Lampayan, CORIGAP key scientist for Thailand, and Alex Stuart, CORIGAP postdoctoral fellow, discussed the work plan for Thailand in the upcoming dry season, including protocols.

By Trina Leah Mendoza

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