Irrigated rice production is one of the most essential agricultural activities for sustaining our global population, and at the same time, one of the agricultural sectors considered most eco-unfriendly. This is because it consumes a larger share of available freshwater resources, competing with varied ecosystems as well as other economic sectors; its paddy fields are responsible for significant emission of greenhouse gases; and the reliance on chemical fertilizers and various agrochemicals contributes to pollution of soils and water systems. These stresses on soils, hydrology and atmosphere are actually not necessary for rice production, which can be increased by modifying agronomic practices though more agroecologically-sound management practices. These, combined under the rubric of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), can reduce requirements of irrigation water, chemical fertilizer and agrochemicals while increasing paddy yields and farmer’s net incomes. Here we discuss how irrigated rice production can be made more eco-friendly for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the environment. This is achieved by introducing practices that improve the growth and functioning of rice plants’ root systems and enhance the abundance, diversity and activity of beneficial soil organisms that live around plant roots and within the plants themselves as symbiotic endophytes.
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