Rice feeds half the world but drought and floods caused by climate change put crops at risk. Over 3.5 billion people derive at least 20 percent of their caloric needs from this cereal every day. And demand is on the rise, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia, where more than 90 percent of the world’s rice is produced.
Rice fields are generally submerged by about ten centimeters of water but due to extreme weather events it is increasingly difficult to find the right balance between excessive and poor irrigation. The greatest threat is salt: rising sea levels and floods following periods of drought endanger crops along the estuary of rivers such as the Mekong and Ganges. By invading river deltas, salt water can seep into land and irrigation canals, devastating fields. And it has already happened.
According to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific, during the 2015 and 2016 droughts, floods penetrated up to 90 kilometers inland, destroying 405,000 hectares of rice fields across Southeast Asia. And forecasts for the future are not rosy: according to research published in Science Advances, climate change will intensify monsoon rains in South Asia in the coming years, where farmers in China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam – the largest producers in the world. rice world – risk losing crops.