How climate change affects rice production


Rice is one of the most salt sensitive crops. Salinity affects both its early growth and reproductive stages, delaying the blooming time and reducing the pollen viability which negatively affects the productivity.



Global temperature has increased over the last century, especially during the last 50 years (0.13 ° C / decade). This warming has been more intense in the European Mediterranean region, being the effects most evident in spring and summer, contrasting to what happens in northern Europe where most notable increases are detected in winter. Temperature increases on the Mediterranean coastline is greater than those observed in other regions of the same latitude. In addition, due to scarcer water availability and the rise in sea levels, there is a clear tendency toward salinization in the river deltas where rice is grown in Europe, notably in the plots close to the sea level. Simulations in the project PRUDENCE regional climate models (RCM) indicate that in the Mediterranean area temperatures will likely continue increasing at a faster rate than the global and European average during this century, so that in a few decades this increase may be very obvious.

Rice (Oryza sativa) is one of the most important cereal crops in the world, and makes up an important calorie proportion of the human diet. Europe produces two thirds of its consumed rice, with a paddy rice production in excess of 3 million tons per year . Rice production thus has major socio-cultural, economic and ecological impacts in several European Mediterranean countries.

Food security is being compromised by the climate change, the salinization of the aquifers and the increasing food demand for a growing population. It has been estimated that the global demand for rice in 2025 will increase from the 480 million tons 2013 rice production to 715 million tons of milled rice. Many efforts have been made by international rice institutes to obtain salt tolerant lines. Recently, molecular markers have been identified in rice that are strongly linked with a specific chromosomal region named “Saltol” which confer salt tolerance by correcting K+/Na+ levels and excluding sodium from plants. These markers enable to effectively transfer the region into elite European rice cultivars.