Mitigation of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from drained irrigated rice fields
One of the important cultural practices that affect methane and nitrous oxide emissions from tropical rice plantations is the water drainage system. While drainage can reduce methane emissions, it can also increase nitrous oxide emissions, as well as reduce yields. In this experiment, four different water drainage systems were compared in a rice field in central Thailand including: (1) continuous flooding, (2) mid-season drainage, (3) multiple drainage and (4) a local method (drainage was done according to local cultural practice) in order to find a system of drainage that would optimize yields while simultaneously limiting methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Methane and nitrous oxide emission were observed and compared with rice yield and physical changes of rice plants. It was found that drainage during the flowering period could reduce methane emission. Interestingly, nitrous oxide emission was related to number of drain days rather than the frequency of draining. Fewer drain days can help reduce nitrous oxide emission. The mid-season drainage and the multiple drainage, with 6.9% and 11.4% reduction in rice yield, respectively, had an average methane emission per crop 27% and 35% lower when compared to the local method. Draining with fewer drain days during the flowering period was recommended as a compromise between emissions and yield. The field drainage can be used as an option to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice fields with acceptable yield reduction. Mid-season drainage during the rice flowering period, with a shortened drainage period (3 days), is suggested as a compromise between the need to reduce global warming and current socio-economic realities.