According to a research published today in eLife, growing rice with aquatic creatures may eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides while also increasing farmer yields.
The findings point to a technique to assist lessen the environmental impacts of rice cultivation while also providing possible economic advantages to rice producers.
Modern farms typically cultivate a single crop and use a lot of fertilizers and pesticides. This has aided in agricultural output, but at the expense of environmental deterioration. Some farmers are experimenting with producing a combination of crops and animals in order to decrease the use of agricultural pesticides by using positive plant-animal interactions.
Farmers experimenting with rearing aquatic creatures in rice fields is one example, according to co-first author Liang Guo, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Zhejiang University’s College of Life Sciences in Hangzhou, China. “Understanding how these creatures contribute to rice paddy ecosystems might aid in more sustainable rice production.”
Guo and colleagues compared the development of rice with carp, mitten crabs, or softshell turtles against rice cultivated alone over the course of three four-year trials. They discovered that as compared to rice farmed alone, the aquatic creatures reduced weeds, enhanced organic matter decomposition, and boosted rice yields.
“We also discovered that nitrogen levels in the soil in rice fields containing aquatic animals remained stable, lowering the demand for nitrogen-based fertilizers,” explains co-first author Lufeng Zhao, a PhD student at Zhejiang University’s College of Life Sciences.
The crew next looked at what the animals in the rice fields ate. They discovered that plant and other things scavenged made up 16-50 percent of their diet, rather than their feed. They also discovered that the rice plants consumed 13-35 percent of the nitrogen from residual feed that the animals didn’t eat.
Rice planted with aquatic creatures produced yields that were 8.7% to 12.1 percent greater than rice farmed alone. Farmers were also able to raise between 0.5 and 2.5 tonnes of crabs, carp, or turtles per acre in addition to their rice.
“These findings add to our understanding of the roles of animals in agricultural ecosystems and support the idea that growing crops alongside animals has a number of advantages,” says Xin Chen, professor of ecology at Zhejiang University’s College of Life Sciences and co-senior author of the study with Dr. Liangliang Hu and Professor Jianjun Tang. “Adding aquatic creatures to rice fields may enhance farmers’ profitability since they can sell both the animals and the rice, spend less on fertilizer and pesticides, and charge more for sustainably cultivated goods,” says the report.