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ECORICE - Sustainable management of the rice straw

LIFE04 ENV/ES/000184


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Contact details:

Project Manager: Vicente ALEIXANDRE ROIG
Tel: 34 963525478
Fax: +34 961610037
Email: odevesa@ayto-valencia.es



Project description:

Background

Valencia, Spain's third largest city, is host to one of the most breathtaking areas on the Mediterranean: the Albufera Nature Reserve. The reserve contains important natural habitats as well as traditional agricultural land and sites of rich cultural value. The sheltering of biodiversity has earned the area official recognition from the Ramsar Convention (wetlands) and is both a Special Protection Area for birds and a Site of Community Interest.

Rice fields cover two-thirds of the ecologically-important 21 000 ha Albufera Nature Reserve. Although the crops characteristics contribute to the preservation of the wetlands, the harvesting process has been causing a number of severely negative effects on the environment, because of the practice of burning the left-over stubble This has had a direct and harmful impact on: the natural landscape; flora and fauna and their habitats; and human health (rhinitis, asthma, migraines). It also contributes to global warming through the emission of C0² and other greenhouse gasses and even impacts on road safety, as the smoke causes reductions in visibility.

The problem is a significant one in Spain as the country is the second-largest rice-producer in the EU (after Italy). The country generates 90 000 tonnes of rice-straw annually, a significant part of which is burnt-off in situ during a three-week period around October. About 50 000 tonnes of this production is in the vicinity of Albufera Nature Reserve and the burning has a significant effect on nearby urban areas.


Objectives

The project set out to eliminate air pollution caused by rice-straw incineration in the area of Albufera Nature Reserve. Through the development of a Centre for waste reuse and recycling, it intended to study, develop and promote economically viable and environmentally-friendly techniques for re-using rice straw - and other organic waste - in a commercial way instead of burning it.

In particular, it sought to establish a new system to collect the straw and convert it into organic blankets for use in combating desertification or on soils dedicated to dry farming (almond trees, olive trees etc). It aimed to demonstrate the usefulness of rice straw blankets as an alternative to coconut fibre blankets or plastic covers in the regeneration of degraded soils and for saving water consumption in dry farming.

It was hoped that such new techniques and uses would win the support of rice-farmers by making it commercially attractive to recycle rather than burn the rice straw. The business of rice cultivation would therefore also gain a better acceptance in the area through the demonstration of good environmental practices and the removal of pollution. This in turn would improve the chances that this traditional agricultural practice would continue with its consequent benefits to the natural environment and biodiversity.


Results

All objectives of the “Eco Rice” project were met. It succeeded in launching a new commercial market for rice straw which should avoid its incineration after the yearly harvest. The latest data (2006) from the Valencia municipality demonstrated a “significant” reduction in air pollution as well as showing that the project’s approach has no negative effect on the most traditional uses and biodiversity of the Albufera Nature Reserve.

The Eco Rice project collected 1 350 tonnes of rice straw in the fields of the Valencia municipality (which covers up to 60% of the terrain dedicated to this crop in the project’s area). It used prototypes developed by the LIFE project BIOCOMPOST to store the straw, which it then sent to the Centre for waste reuse and recycling from where it was made into straw blankets.(/p>

Results from the application of the straw blankets in pilot-site fields showed that the agronomic yield of the area covered by the blankets was better than the one achieved in the field sector without them. According to the study, this result was achieved because the soil covered by the straw blankets maintains a higher degree of humidity than areas without them – a result that the beneficiary believes could be important to most of the Mediterranean region.

By avoiding the burning of 1 350 tonnes of rice straw, Eco Rice avoided the emission of 74.6 tonnes of C0² into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the project was also able to demonstrate that the agronomic yields of rice production in the areas where the rice-straw was collected rather than incinerated are similar to the ones achieved with traditional methods.

The project helped to integrate sustainable agricultural strategies with waste management strategies. It also generated high levels of interest in its activities and conclusions from farmers, public administrators and citizens given the extent of the problem of incineration to the people of Valencia and its surroundings.

The significant advantages and lack of disadvantages to the recycling of rice straw into blankets proved that the re-use of rice straw is a technically and financially viable option at industrial and agronomic level. Not only can the techniques be adopted and developed by rice farmers elsewhere in Spain and across Europe, but there is good reason to believe the approach can be transferred to other agricultural sectors.

Disclaimer : This « results » section should be considered as a draft until the Commission has completed its evaluation .


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Air & Noise - Air quality monitoring
Waste - Agricultural waste


Keywords

protected area‚  waste management‚  atmospheric pollution‚  agricultural waste


Target EU Legislation

  • Land & Soil
  • "Directive 86/278 - Protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage slu ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator Concejalía de la Devesa-Albufera
Type of organisation Local authority
Description The beneficiary, Valencia City Council, is directly responsible for 5000 hectares (approximately a quarter) of the Albufera Nature Reserve where the project took place. Project partners included two public administration bodies, three private companies and two foundations.
Partners Consellería de Territorio y Vivienda, Spain Comercial PROJAR, Spain Fund. Comunitat Valenciana Región Europea, Spain Mª Fca. Francés, Spain Innove Verda, Spain FUVAMA, Spain Consell Agrari, Spain

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Project reference LIFE04 ENV/ES/000184
Duration 01-DEC-2004 to 01-JUN -2007
Total budget 1,962,795.00 €
EU contribution 948,023.00 €
Project location Comunidad Valenciana(España)

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Read more:

Newsletter Newsletter N. 2 (ES)
Poster "Decàleg per al desenvolupament sostenible de l'ar ...
Poster "Decálogo para el Desarrollo sostenible Del Arroza ...
Project web site L'Albufera Projects webpage (ES, Valencian, EN)
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Proceedings "Arròs al Parc Natural de l'Albufera, un futur sos ...
Video link "Ecorice LIFE Project"(14')
Video link "Ecorice LIFE Project"(14')(in Valencian)
Video link "Ecorice LIFE Project"(14')

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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version