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The environmental impacts of lowland paddy rice: A case study comparison between rainfed and irrigated rice in Thailand

Perret S., Thanawong K., Basset-Mens C., Mungkung R.. 2013. Cahiers Agricultures, 22 (5) : p. 369-377.

DOI: 10.1684/agr.2013.0663

North-eastern Thailand is an essential production area for high-quality fragrant rice for domestic use and export. While rainfed conditions largely prevail, plans to extend irrigation are drafted. This article compares paddy rice production under irrigation and rainfed conditions. Techno-economic performances were analysed jointly with environ- mental impacts, based upon life cycle analysis, and energy and water use analyses. Data were collected in 2010 from 45 diverse rice cropping systems in the Lam Sieo Yai Basin, according to three systems, namely wet-season rain-fed (Rw), wet-season irrigation (Iw), and dry-season irrigation (Id) systems. Wide-ranging performances and impacts were observed, while cropping practices were relatively homogeneous. Differentiation of systems originated mostly from differences in yield, which were largely impacted by water supply. The results highlight the low performances and high impacts of Id systems. They require mostly blue water, while the two other systems rely primarily on green water. Id systems also require more energy and labour, due to increased water management needs. The productivity of most production factors was higher in Rw and Iw systems. Emissions proved relatively similar across systems, with the exception of CH 4 , which was markedly lower in Rw systems due to specific water and organic residue management. Id systems systematically emitted more nitrates, phosphates, and pesticides. Rw systems showed the lowest environmental impacts per ha and per kg of paddy rice produced. The average Global Warming Potential was 2.97 kg CO 2 -eq per kg rice in Rw systems, 4.87 in Iw systems, and 5.55 in Id systems. This article further discusses the results in view of contrasting perspectives, including societal objectives, farmer income and environmental integrity, and possible irrigation development in north-eastern Thailand.

Mots-clés : oryza sativa; riz pluvial; riz irrigué; impact sur l'environnement; cycle de développement; analyse économique; bilan hydrique; bilan énergétique; productivité; changement climatique; conditions météorologiques; rendement des cultures; pratique culturale; culture pluviale; culture irriguée; analyse du cycle de vie; thaïlande; paddy

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