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Agroecological Rice Production in China

Restoring Biological Interactions

image of Agroecological Rice Production in China

Rice is the most important food crop, both worldwide and for China. To achieve a transition towards sustainable rice production based on agroecology, biodiversity is a crucial component. Through China’s long history of agricultural development, many rich experiences of harnessing biodiversity in traditional rice production have been accumulated. This agricultural heritage is complemented by new experiences developed over the past 30 years, associated with agroecology, ecological agriculture or eco-agriculture as it is variously termed in China. Eight typical methods of agroecological rice production are introduced in this report, with an emphasis on the role of biodiversity in this production. The first method is based on the genetic diversity of rice. The second to seventh methods each emphasize diversity at the species level. The eighth method is based on the use of biodiversity in rice production at the watershed scale. It is related to the ecosystem and landscape levels of biodiversity and agroecology outlined above. These agroecological methods for harnessing biodiversity in rice production can be learned, modified, improved and integrated into rice production across different regions around the world according to the specific context in each place. It is intended that the principles and ideas behind these methods can stimulate broader thinking on how to harness biodiversity for the sustainable production of other crops and for broader agricultural practices.

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Method 4 Rice-rice-azolla rotation system

Azolla is a type of green manure used in rice production. Azolla belongs to a genus of aquatic fern that has a symbiotic relationship with Anabaena azollae, a species of blue-green algae. A. azollae can fix nitrogen and form a symbiotic relationship with the host. The nitrogen fixing ability of Azolla can reach 150–450 kg N/ha a year. The nutrition content of Azolla is rich (Table 4.1), hence it can be used as an organic fertilizer for crops as well as feed for animals. The suitable temperature range for the growth of Azolla is 15–28 °C. Azolla can be grown in paddy fields together with rice or after the rice harvest. In the southern sub-tropical and tropical regions with a warm winter, Azolla can be grown in winter to form a rice-rice-Azolla rotation system. Azolla can also grow together with rice and form a rice-Azolla co-culture system.

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