(Reuters) - Rice farmers could boost their yields by 50 percent with a new method that uses less water Oxfam America said on Wednesday as climate change and drought threaten the staple crop.
Growing rice -- considered the major calorie source for about half the world's population -- is water-intensive, accounting for as much as one-third of the planet's annual freshwater use, said Oxfam, a development group.
Rice farmers normally rely on flooding their fields to keep seeds covered in water throughout the growing season.
But the new method, known as the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, involves planting seedlings farther apart, keeping fields moist instead of flooding them, transplanting seedlings to fields earlier and weeding manually, Oxfam said in a report.
Farmers using SRI in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and India have been able to produce as much as 50 percent more rice with less water, and often with less labor, said the report, written with U.S.-based nonprofit Africare and the Worldwide Fund for Nature. ...