Rice production in constant challenges

Changing weather patterns due to climate change can impact on popular staple output

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SERDANG: An adverse weather pattern that may come with climate change will be a major concern for rice growers in the country.

Mohammad Hariz bin Abdul Rahman, Deputy Director of Climate Change Programme at the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), says prolonged dry spells unleashed by impending climate change will severely impact national rice yields from local growers.

Speaking to The Petri Dish here recently, Mohammad Hariz said: “Extended periods of drought would mean severe water scarcity for crops, especially those grown in areas that rely on natural water supplies such as rivers and rainfall.

“Such areas comprise 20 per cent of paddy fields in Malaysia and produce an average of 2.6 tonnes of rice per hectare,” he added.

He said even though the temperature has risen over the years, our local temperature is still within the optimum range for rice growth, which is 27 °C to 32 °C.

“However, a study on the future of rice cultivation in Malaysia has projected that if the temperature rises even a mere one to two degrees above the optimum threshold, it would result in about a 20 per cent reduction in rice yields,” Mohammad Hariz said, adding “this would equate to a one to two tonne decrease in rice yield per hectare.”

While prolonged dry spells currently pose the biggest threat to local rice production, Hariz also stressed the impact of extended periods of rainfall – another potential impact of climate change.

He said: “Excessive rain can induce bacterial and fungal diseases in paddy plants.”

“While data may suggest a consistent amount of precipitation yearly, it is also important to note the circumstances and dynamic weather patterns that regulate periods of rainfall and drought.”

“If there are prolonged dry spells and prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, it may maintain the average precipitation level but it would drastically affect our rice yield,” he pointed out.

“Furthermore, each rice-producing region in Malaysia experiences different weather patterns, which is something we need to take into account when examining their rice production,” he added.