Climate-smart rice farming a win-win New LLL technology signals greener pastures for struggling rice farmers, boosting revenue while giving Mother Nature a break

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Climate-smart rice farming a win-win new lll technology signals greener pastures for struggling farmers, boosting revenue while giving mother nature break

Rice farmers will be able to increase yield and reduce costs by applying new farming techniques and innovations including laser land levelling technology.

Sawanee Phorang, a 44-year-old farmer from Suphan Buri's Doem Bang Nang Buat district, recently changed her traditional rice farming practice by adopting laser land levelling (LLL), an innovative technology she claims has completely transformed her way of life.

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Being a partner of the Thai Rice Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (Nama) project since 2020, she was trained to reduce the cost of production and increase yield through the concept of wet-and-dry rice planting.

She also learnt about proper fertiliser use and how to avoid burning rice straws after the harvest to clear the land before planting new crops using the LLL technology.

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“When we adjusted our land use with this new technology, we slashed our fuel costs in half. It helps to perfectly manage the land by facilitating the pumping of water into paddy fields, which also saves fifty percent of our time,” she said.

“All of the techniques we learnt from the project are not only good for our revenue but also help the environment. We’re happy to do our bit to ‘save the world’ simply by changing the way we plant crops.”

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She said LLL technology can reduce the cost of investment from 5,000 baht per rai to just 3,500 baht. Her rice yield also jumps from 800 kilogrammes per rai to 1,000kg.

Moreover, she can sell her carbon credits to Europe for 400 baht per rai. Her paddies span 60 rai and she is now preparing the process to sell the credits, she added.

Such developments come as welcome news for Thailand’s legions of farmers, many of whom are wincing from explosive inflation that has driven up their farm and raw material prices.

Half of all the agricultural land in Thailand is cultivated for rice production, accounting for nearly 55% of climate emissions from the farming sector.

The country also ranks as the world’s fourth-largest emitter of rice-related greenhouse gases, especially methane that has a global warming potential 28 times higher than carbon dioxide.

The kingdom has made a global commitment to reach carbon-neutrality by 2050 and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2065, with strong efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from man-made activities.

This of course extends to the farming sector, which needs to transform from traditional farming practices to more up-to-date methods based on cutting-edge technology and better education.

The Thai government, with the assistance of the German development agency GIZ, is now implementing the Thai Rice Nama project to encourage local small-holder farmers to implement low-emission rice in a sustainable manner.

The main partners are the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, in particular the Rice Department; the Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning Department, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; and the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), under the Ministry of Finance.

The project is being put in place in six provinces in the Central Plains: Chai Nat, Sing Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, and Suphan Buri. The target is to reach 100,000 rice-farming households totalling 2.8 million rai. It aims to reduce emissions equivalent to 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over five years since its inception in 2018.

To promote the LLL technology, GIZ has partnered with the BAAC while the Department of Rice recently signed an 8.4-million-euro (306 million baht) grant to implement a co-payment scheme whereby the farmers and project organisers each cover half of the cost.

The goal is to provide financial support packages to farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs to access land preparation, LLL services and crop stubble management which are essential for climate-smart rice farming in Thailand.

Pongphun Jongrak, the BAAC’s executive vice president, said many farmers in these pilot areas are eligible to apply for the scheme.

Following approval, they will receive 50% subsidy support along with 50% pre-financing for land preparation and LLL services in rice fields up to a maximum of 2,000 baht per rai.

Similar conditions apply to agri-entrepreneurs, with a maximum loan of 200,000 baht per person available.

“The Half-Half co-payment scheme will enable [them] to increase their productivity and farming management efficiency while accessing technology and innovation crucial for climate-smart farming,” Mr Pongphun said.

Reinhold Elges, GIZ’s country director for Thailand and Malaysia, said the combination of LLL and alternate wetting and drying practices reduces methane emissions by 30-70% while significantly increasing production efficiency, leading to higher incomes for farmers.

“It’s a win-win solution,” he said.

To achieve its targets of reaching carbon-neutrality by 2050 and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2065, Thailand must provide farmers with more access to innovative technology, Mr Elges said, adding that LLL technology is a perfect fit for this.

“This will be a huge benefit to participating farmers and service providers. If widely adopted, these innovative practices will also help Thailand to achieve its goal of decisively addressing the global climate crisis,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chalat Bhawangkananth, manager of the Business Development Bureau at Chokchai Agricultural Machinery, said such financial support is crucial for the farming sector, especially those keen to invest in technology.

His business is now booming due to Thai farmer’s interest in embracing this technology, he said.

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