Rice straw is a by-product of rice production. Globally, over 800 million tons of this straw is produced per year. With intensive rice farming models, farmers expect two to three crops per year. This quick turnaround is not conducive to the conditions required for the natural decomposition of rice straw.
To Burn Or Not To Burn
Traditionally, burning was a quick way to clear the land for the next crop. Burning is beneficial because it is cheap and easy. Also, it assists with the control of weeds, insects and diseases. Lastly, it can reduce nitrogen tie-up.
However, the disadvantages of this method are adverse effects on soil microbes and fauna, loss of nutrients, reduction in soil aggregate stability. As well as a long-term increase in soil acidity and an increase in erosion via water and wind. Furthermore, this practice of burning rice fields is a huge pollutant, emitting (NOx), methane and particulates. Thus exacerbating respiratory problems in the local community.
Disposal of rice by-products via burning causes enormous damage to visibility, respiration and the variety of local flora and fauna. This impact both the locals and the environment. Therefore, a viable alternative to burning rice straw is sought.
Potential solutions include: –
1. The production of biofuel.
2. Produce silage (cattle feed) via fermentation
3. Mechanical composting to speed up the decomposition process.
In Thailand, Jaruwan Khammuang is processing rice straw into a pulp. The pulp’s exported to India, where the tableware and cutlery manufacturers convert the pulp into paper. Lastly, this paper is converted into food packaging. In summary, these biodegradable packages are the product of rice by-products.