Fluxes of methane from rice fields and potential for mitigation



Abstract. Methane (CH4) is an important greenhouse gas. Flooded rice fields (paddies) are a significant source of atmospheric CH4; estimates of the annual emission from paddies range from less than 20 to 100 million Tg, with best estimates of 50 × 20 Tg. The emission is the net result of opposing bacterial processes: production in anaerobic microenvironments, and consumption and oxidation in aerobic microenvironments, both of which occur sequentially and concurrently in flooded rice soils. With current technologies, CH4 emission from rice fields will increase as production increases. Over the next 25 years rice production will have to increase by 65% from the present 460 Mt/y to 760 Mt/y in 2020. The current understanding of the processes controlling CH4 fluxes, rice growth and rice production is sufficient to develop mitigation technologies. Promising candidates are changes in water management, rice cultivars, fertilization, and cultural practices. A significant reduction of CH4 emission from rice fields, at the same time that rice production and productivity increase at the farm level, is feasible, although the regions where particular practices can be applied, and the trade-offs that are possible, have still to be identified.