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New Trends in Rice Production Research

research and innovation in rice farming

When it comes to rice production, recent trends in scientific research are opening up new frontiers. These innovations are driven by a growing need to respond to global challenges such as climate change, food security and environmental sustainability.

Research and innovation in rice farming is focusing on genetically improving rice to increase its yield, resistance to diseases and pests, and tolerance to environmental challenges such as drought or soil salinity. An important aspect of these studies is the use of Assisted Evolution Techniques (AETs), which allow targeted modifications to be made to the plant genome. Thanks to these techniques, we can accelerate the process of improving rice varieties, overcoming the limitations of traditional genetic enhancement.

What are AETs?

AETs represent a groundbreaking milestone in agronomic research, especially in the context of rice production. Unlike Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which often incorporate genes from different species through transgenesis, AETs are based on targeted interventions that enhance or modify genes already present in the plant genome. This genetic rewriting process is like accelerating the natural mutation or selection that would occur through crossbreeding and selection in the field.

The main advantage of AETs is the ability to produce rice varieties with the desired characteristics much more quickly and efficiently. These techniques can help create plants that respond better to environmental stresses, use water and nutrient resources more efficiently, and are more resistant to diseases and pests. This is a significant step toward sustainability in agriculture, reducing the need for chemical interventions and minimizing environmental impact.

A practical example of using AETs is developing rice varieties capable of tolerating higher levels of salinity in the soil, a condition that is becoming increasingly common due to climate change and can seriously affect the yield of traditional crops. In addition, no external DNA is introduced with AETs, meaning they are viewed more favorably by both regulators and the public, who is often reticent about GMOs.

The integration of AETs into rice research and production in Italy marks an important step toward an agricultural future that is environmentally friendly and adapts to emerging challenges, while preserving the excellence and variety that characterize Italian rice.

From drones to robotics – other innovations in rice farming

Technological innovation and research in agriculture isn’t all about genetics, but also about techniques and equipment that can be used for crops.

Advanced technologies such as GPS, IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, drones and satellite imagery are examples of what future agriculture could look like.

Precision agriculture in rice cultivation

The use of precision agriculture is beginning to revolutionize rice farming in Italy, bringing greater efficiency and sustainability. This technological approach uses sensors, drones and satellite data to accurately monitor crops, enabling a more targeted use of water and fertilizers. With these tools, farmers can quickly identify the specific needs of their crops, reducing waste and improving yields.

While there are both advantages and disadvantages to using drones, they provide a detailed overview of the plant’s health, enabling timely and localized interventions.

Smart irrigation to combat drought and climate change

Smart irrigation research is another topic that is increasingly emerging as a solution to optimize water use. This innovation is particularly important in an industry where water is a key resource. Smart irrigation uses automated systems and sensors to deliver water to crops in a precise and controlled manner, adapting to the specific needs of the soil and plants.

These systems significantly reduce water consumption, a key issue in times of increasing water scarcity and environmental concerns. Furthermore, optimizing irrigation contributes to better plant health by reducing the risk of diseases related to excessive soil moisture.

The use of robotics and automation in the rice sector

Robotics and automation are two further examples of technological innovation in the rice sector that allow for more efficient and sustainable production methods.

These advanced machines assist farmers in a variety of operations, including planting, weed management and harvesting.

The use of robots and autonomous agricultural vehicles reduces dependence on labor, an increasingly scarce and expensive resource, and optimizes completion time and quality. Robots can work in conditions that would be difficult or dangerous for humans, such as in muddy terrain or during heatwaves. What’s more, their accuracy is impeccable, reducing waste and improving efficiency in the use of resources such as seeds and plant protection products.

Although there are interesting and beneficial aspects to these advances, not everyone is convinced by them, and often the lack of appropriate legislation hinders an informed and effective use of the technology itself. Research is therefore still underway to find adequate answers to doubts and concerns and the best solutions for companies, workers and the environment.