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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 7 Integrated rice-frog co-culture system

Chinese farmers have used frogs to control rice pests for a long time. During the Song Dynasty (420–490 A.D.), the poet Fan Chengda wrote that the “noisy voice of the frog lasting to the foggy morning predicts a bumper year”. The famous poet Xin Qiji (1140–1207) wrote that, “People were talking about a bumper harvest while smelling the scent of rice flowers and listening to the song of frogs”.The integrated rice-frog co-culture system makes good use of the natural symbiotic relationship between frogs and rice in paddy fields to increase rice production and protect the natural environment. In recent years, integrated rice-frog ecosystems were first tested and demonstrated in the Shanghai Qingpu modern agricultural park, Qingpu District, in 2007 (Fig. 7.1). The stocking density of tiger frogs, ecological planting structures, and pest control technology were explored. From 2009, with the technical support of the School of Agriculture and Biology, Shanghai Jiaotong University, further research and demonstrations were carried out. Meanwhile, the products of “Frog Rice” brand, produced by the Shanghai Zizaiyuan Agricultural Development Co. Ltd. Have been awarded green and organic certification. These developments indicate that integrated rice-frog ecosystems have achieved good pilot and demonstration effects and have shown significant ecological and economic benefits. The integrated rice-frog ecosystem has changed the conventional approach to rice production by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It successfully controls non-point source pollutants by using ecological ditches and artificial wetland technology to intercept and adsorb run-off pollutants from drainage water.

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