Aerobic Rice: Producing More Rice with Less Water

Irrigated agriculture in Malaysia uses 75% of total freshwater and more than 90% devotes to irrigated lowland rice production. The traditional irrigated lowland rice production requires
continuous flooding and needs relatively high water inputs. There are signs that water availability is threatening the sustainability of the traditional way of irrigated rice production
system, due mainly to decreasing resources and competition from urban and industrial users. To safeguard the food industry and conserve water, an alternate system of growing rice with less water is required.
To date, the rice production in Malaysia had only achieved slightly more than 75% selfsufficiency level. To reach self-sufficiency level of 100%, and without seeking more water for
agricultural sector, a different approach in rice cultivation is needed. Aerobic rice is a fundamentally different concept of growing rice, it is high yielding rice grown in non-puddled
and non-flooded fields under irrigation and high external inputs. To make aerobic rice successful, new varieties and management practices must be developed. At the moment, aerobic rice production systems using controlled irrigation such as overhead sprinkler, alternate wetting and drying which could achieve a higher water productivity level are being carried out. Evidence from studies showed that aerobic rice used only 50% of the water compared with the lowland rice. The water productivity improved from 0.4 to 0.6 kg/m3. The reduction of the water used mainly attributed from the reduced seepage and percolation losses, evaporation decreased since there is no ponded layer, and also large amount of water used for land preparation can be eliminated. The realization of water savings combined with high yields in aerobic rice depends on good water and soil management, the basic understanding of crop-water relationships and irrigation management.