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Glob Chang Biol. 2017 Nov;23(11):4728-4738. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13737. Epub 2017 Jun 1.

Higher yields and lower methane emissions with new rice cultivars.

Author information

Institute of Applied Ecology, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China.
Institute of Crop Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences/Key Laboratory of Crop Physiology and Ecology, Ministry of Agriculture, Beijing, China.
Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
Jiangxi Key Laboratory of Crop Physiology, Ecology and Genetic Breeding, Jiangxi Agricultural University, Nanchang, China.
Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA.
Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA.
Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department, Rothamsted Research, Okehampton, UK.
Soil and Fertilizer & Resources and Environmental Institute, Jiangxi Academy of Agricultural Science, Nanchang, China.
Institute of Agricultural Resources and Environment, Chongqing Academy of Agricultural Science, Chongqing, China.
Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
Plant and Environmental Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA.


Breeding high-yielding rice cultivars through increasing biomass is a key strategy to meet rising global food demands. Yet, increasing rice growth can stimulate methane (CH4 ) emissions, exacerbating global climate change, as rice cultivation is a major source of this powerful greenhouse gas. Here, we show in a series of experiments that high-yielding rice cultivars actually reduce CH4 emissions from typical paddy soils. Averaged across 33 rice cultivars, a biomass increase of 10% resulted in a 10.3% decrease in CH4 emissions in a soil with a high carbon (C) content. Compared to a low-yielding cultivar, a high-yielding cultivar significantly increased root porosity and the abundance of methane-consuming microorganisms, suggesting that the larger and more porous root systems of high-yielding cultivars facilitated CH4 oxidation by promoting O2 transport to soils. Our results were further supported by a meta-analysis, showing that high-yielding rice cultivars strongly decrease CH4 emissions from paddy soils with high organic C contents. Based on our results, increasing rice biomass by 10% could reduce annual CH4 emissions from Chinese rice agriculture by 7.1%. Our findings suggest that modern rice breeding strategies for high-yielding cultivars can substantially mitigate paddy CH4 emission in China and other rice growing regions.


meta-analysis; methanogenesis; methanotrophy; roots; soil carbon

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