Rice cultivation and processing: Highlights from a life cycle thinking perspective

May 01, 2023 | Science of The Total Environment | Source

Introduction: Rice is a major food for over half the world, mostly grown in Asia. However, its cultivation harms the environment, emitting CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide, and depleting resources. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) evaluates these impacts and guides sustainable improvements. Research team based in University of Milan, Italy has conducted a review LCA studies of rice cultivation to understand its environmental effects and suggest mitigation strategies. 

Key findings: The review of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies on rice cultivation reveals wide environmental variability due to diverse cultivation practices and LCA methodologies. Greenhouse gas emissions per ton of rice vary greatly by country, influenced by farming techniques. Organic methods often have higher emissions due to lower yields and methane from flooded fields. Economic evaluations show impacts of machinery and fertilizers on costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Common contributors to environmental impacts include diesel use, fertilizer production, and field emissions. Eutrophication and water depletion are major concerns, while pesticide use affects toxicity. Standardization of LCA methodologies is crucial for accurate comparisons. Future research should consider socioeconomic factors alongside environmental impacts for a comprehensive understanding of rice cultivation sustainability. Overall, while LCA provides valuable insights, gaps remain in addressing biodiversity loss and soil fertility changes, highlighting the need for further multidimensional assessments of rice production sustainability.

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