Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population, and about 91% of it is grown and consumed in Asia. For every 4 tons of rice grain, 6 tons of straw are produced. In Asia, this amounts to about 550 million tons of straw and 110 million tons of husks each year. The husks are removed from the grains and can be used as fuel, while rice straw remains in the fields after harvest and is costly to gather up.
Traditional rice straw management practices are often hazardous to the ecosystem. Incorporating rice straw into the soil delays the land preparation for next cropping and causes methane emissions. Burning rice straw causes air pollution and health problems.
Nevertheless, rice straw can be sustainably removed from the field and used for bioenergy. The Rice Straw Energy Project is a collaboration between researchers in the U.K. ‘SUPERGEN’ Bioenergy Consortium and IRRI to understand the barriers that prevent this from happening and investigate the possible solutions.