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Rice is the staple food of 3 billion people, providing one-fifth of calories consumed worldwide. Its cultivation is responsible for at least 10 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and 9 to 19 percent of global methane emissions. That is because flooded rice paddies are ideal anaerobic environments for methane-producing microbes that feed on decomposing organic matter, a process known as methanogenesis.

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), developed on Madagascar in the 1980s, is a holistic approach for sustainable rice cultivation. It calls for:

  1. Planting single seedlings with more space between them, rather than by the handful and bunched closely together.
  2. Watering intermittently and allowing for dry spells, rather than using continuous flooding.
  3. Tending plots with a rotating hoe, to address weeds and aerate soil, and applying compost.