Rice production database better equipped to tackle food security issues

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

It is grown in diverse cropping systems and environments—from single crop systems in temperate and tropical regions in both rainfed and irrigated conditions, to intensive monoculture in irrigated areas in the tropics where rice is grown two or three times per year.©iStock
It is grown in diverse cropping systems and environments—from single crop systems in temperate and tropical regions in both rainfed and irrigated conditions, to intensive monoculture in irrigated areas in the tropics where rice is grown two or three times per year.©iStock
A publicly available database that provides added insights into rice cultivation could address security issues arising from its production, shaping policy in the process.

The RiceAtlas database is said to be a significant upgrade to current crop monitoring tools, with a spatial detail and data range that better assesses where, when and how much rice is grown globally.

“Strategic knowledge on the when and where of rice production supports the debate on food security and the development and implementation of policies across Africa,”​ said Dr Sander Zwart, principal researcher at AfricaRice, an agricultural research organisation based in Cotonou, Benin.

“Experts from national institutes were consulted to contribute information to RiceAtlas that was before available only in national data bases and not shared with the greater public. RiceAtlas was already deployed to spatially analyse the impact of climate change on rice production in the different growing seasons.”

Rice’s value

Rice is the world’s most important food crop, with its harvest stretched across 163 million hectares (ha) in more than 100 countries.

Worldwide, on average around 60 kilograms of rice is consumed per year per person.

Information on the distribution of global rice production by region and country can be derived from readily available statistics and rice crop calendars.

However, tools to better assess its resilience to climate shocks and seasonal variations in rice supply in order to ease shortfalls in its availability at certain times of the year, are relatively scarce.

Information the database collates can also be used to quantify abiotic and biotic stress risks during the rice-growing seasons, and to model the effects of global climate change and technological change on rice yield and production.

‘A global public good’

Andy Nelson, professor of Spatial Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Twente in the Netherlands said; “We developed RiceAtlas to support strategic planning and modelling which require information on the where and when of rice.”

“Making it a global public good serves the research and policy community but also means that RiceAtlas can be regularly improved through expert knowledge and contributions.”

RiceAtlas’ development is the result of a global collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Africa Rice Center, the Italian National Research Council, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the University of California, and the University of Twente.

Additional support was provided by the CGIAR Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) and Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), and the Global Futures Project.

“Several rice crop calendars exist,”​ said Alice Laborte, scientist at the IRRI. “However, they do not adequately capture the spatial and temporal detail associated with rice production.

“With the help of collaborators from various countries, RiceAtlas has become the most comprehensive and detailed spatial database on global rice calendar and production.”

Source: Sci. Data

Published online ahead of print: doi: 10.1038/sdata.2017.74

“RiceAtlas, a spatial database of global rice calendars and production.”

Authors: Laborte, A. G. et al.

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