Growing rice alongside aquatic creatures can increase rice production, according to a study published in eLife. Growing carp, mitten crabs, or softshell turtles in rice paddies, according to the research, might help farmers produce food more sustainably without the need to use vast quantities of pesticides and fertilizers.
Most modern farms sometimes cultivate only one type of crop and are heavily reliant on the use of fertilizer and pesticides to maintain their rice production. While these chemical products aided agricultural productivity immensely, they also caused environmental damage. The findings stated in the study point to a method for reducing the environmental disadvantages connected with rice cultivation. It also aims to find possible economic gains for rice producers.
Some farmers are experimenting with raising crops alongside animals to lessen the need for agricultural chemicals. This is done to take advantage of favorable plant-animal interactions.
According to co-first author Liang Guo, Postdoctoral Fellow at Zhejiang University’s College of Life Sciences in Hangzhou, China, one example of farmers experimenting with rearing aquatic creatures in rice paddies is learning how these creatures contribute to rice paddy ecosystems and might assist with more sustainable rice production, Gou stated.
Three four-year tests were conducted by Guo and colleagues to determine the growth of rice raised alongside carp, mitten crabs, or softshell turtles and rice raised alone. The tests revealed that aquatic animals decreased weeds, enhanced organic waste decomposition, and boosted rice production when compared to rice farmed alone.
Co-first author Lufeng Zhao, a Ph.D. student at Zhejiang University’s College of Life Sciences explains that they also found nitrogen levels in the soil remaining stable in rice fields containing aquatic animals. This lowers the need for nitrogen-based fertilizers.
The researchers next looked at what the animals ate in the rice paddies. They discovered that plants and other things they scavenged made up 16-50 percent of their diet, rather than their feed, and that rice plants utilized around 13-35 percent of the nitrogen from the residual feed.
According to the tests conducted, growing rice with aquatic creatures resulted in yields that were 8.7 to 12.1 percent greater than yields from rice cultivated alone. Farmers were also able to raise between 0.5 and 2.5 tonnes of crabs, carp, or turtles per acre in addition to rice.
Xin Chen, Professor of Ecology at Zhejiang University’s College of Life Sciences and co-senior author of the study, states that these findings improve their understanding of the roles of animals in agricultural ecosystems and support the view that there are advantages in growing crops alongside animals.
According to Chen, adding aquatic creatures to rice paddies may enhance farmers’ profitability. Farmers can sell the animals they’ve raised alongside the rice, they can spend less on fertilizer and pesticides, and they can charge more for these sustainably cultivated products.