Is aerobic rice a “mature” technology?

Aerobic rice can be considered quite a mature technology in temperate and subtropical environments such as northern China and Brazil, where the areas of aerobic rice are estimated at 80,000 ha and 250,000 ha, respectively. In both countries, breeding programs since the 1980s have resulted in the release of several high-yielding “aerobic rice” varieties. On-farm yield levels seem to lie around 3-4 t ha-1, but yields of up to 6 t ha-1 have been recorded as well. Current research focuses on the development of improved management systems and on breeding further improved varieties.

Tropical aerobic rice systems are still very much in the research and development phase. More research is especially needed to breed high-yielding aerobic rice varieties with sufficient aerobic adaptation and to develop sustainable management systems. Without ponded water, rice production is less sustainable than under flooded (lowland) conditions, and typical problems come up that occur in upland crops (see FAQ: How sustainable is aerobic rice?). In general, sustainability seems to be more of a problem in tropical areas than in temperate areas such as northern China. Aerobic rice should not be grown consecutively on the same piece of land, and – depending on the cropping history and soil type – low yields can even occur on fields cropped to aerobic rice the very first time.