Indexed on: 19 Jun '13Published on: 19 Jun '13Published in: Agronomy for Sustainable Development
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is the premier food crop in the world, being a major staple food for more than half of the world’s population. The potential for a further increase in grain yield will be limited in the future, and more food will need to be produced from the same available arable land. Italy has a long history of rice cultivation, but is now facing challenges to develop new strategies to maintain competitiveness of this sector in the global market. To prepare for the inevitable reduction of both rice prices and incentives from the European Community, and market protection, growers are evaluating the potential of hybrid rice cultivation to increase yields and maintain high quality standards for milling industries. Here we reviewed the characteristics of the Italian rice sector and the first experiences of hybrid cultivation in north Italy during 2012, using them to project the potential challenges and opportunities for both breeders and rice growers. If well managed this technology can represent a solution for sustainable rice production in Italy and in the other European rice growing countries. With hybrid vigor increased yield are obtained from reduced seed rate, lower nitrogen fertilizer, lower reliance on chemical treatments to control diseases, which helps compensate for the increased seed costs. Moreover, partially in contrast with current beliefs, it is shown that it may be possible to produce rice in rather rich countries obtaining a local production.