Cultivating rice with aquatic animals naturally boosts production – study

Carp living with rice plants in a co-culture experiment. (Photo from Lufeng Zhao)

Rice is a staple food for more than 3.5 billion people around the world. Sustainable rice production plays a significant role in ensuring food security for many communities. 

However, like many other monoculture crops, the cultivation of a single crop in a field, rice is prone to diseases, weeds, and pests. The increased vulnerability pushed many farmers to heavily rely on pesticides and fertilizers to ensure efficient rice production.

In a bid to introduce environment-friendly rice cultivation, Liang Guo, a postdoctoral fellow at the College of Life Sciences at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and his colleagues conducted experiments integrating carp, mitten crabs, and softshell turtles in rice paddies. 

Their study showed that growing aquatic life alongside rice helped prevent weed growth, improved the decomposition of organic matter, and stabilized nitrogen levels, ultimately leading to 8.7% to 12.1% higher crop yield compared to control crops grown without the animals. 

“In terms of rice production, adding aquatic animals to paddies may increase farmers’ profits as they can sell both the animals and the rice, spend less on fertilizer and pesticides, and charge more for sustainably grown products,” said Xin Chen, co-senior author of the study and an ecology professor at Zhejiang University.


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