The Resource Renewal Institute (RRI) is moving into the second phase of its Fish in the Fields control study evaluating the introduction of fish in rice fields with a goal of reducing methane emissions from rice production. The institute has been working on strategies to address environmental issues for over 30 years.
Six years of research have shown that fallow rice fields allow for the rapid growth of small, freshwater forage fish. Initial results indicate that modernizing the longstanding and simple practice of raising fish in rice fields can result in significant benefits on a global scale. Along with reducing overall methane emissions, the practice would also support more sustainable and profitable agricultural practices, along with providing another source of protein for an expanding population.
On February 1, a group of scientists from the University of Montana and UC Davis introduced Golden Shiner minnows into trial rice field ponds near Marysville. The team will be measuring what kind of effect the small fish have on nutrient levels as well as methane emissions in the fields. Samples that were taken from flooded rice fields over the past two months verify an abundance of zooplankton, a significant source of protein for fish.
The Fish in the Fields research could prove to be extremely valuable as California continues to focus on and regulate methane emissions. RRI believes that adopting the methods being tested could potentially reduce methane emissions from rice by 90 percent. For California growers, employing the program could provide a secondary crop and income with minor costs for implementation.
Rice is a staple in the diet of over half of the global population, which continues to grow. According to RRI, methane emissions from rice cultivation around the world is responsible for nearly two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers with RRI are hopeful that the Fish in the Fields production methods will be adopted on a global scale.