Rice-Fish Culture in China

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					                          Rice-Fish Culture in China
                                                      Fang Xiuzhen
                             Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre, Wuxi, Jiangsu 214081, China

Fish culture in paddy field was an
ancient farming practice found in
several rice-growing areas, such as
Sichuan and Guizhou Provinces, in
South and Southwest China. It can be
dated back to nearly twenty centuries
ago. In traditional rice-fish culture
practice, rice cultivation was the main
activity of farmers, while some fish
seeds were stocked in paddy fields and
looked after extensively, merely for the
purpose of having additional animal
protein food for household
consumption by farmers. From the
1950’s to late 1970’s, this once common
practice faded out considerably as a
result of introduction of planned
economy run under rural communes
and later the increase in use of
chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
When economic reform was started in          Sumps provide a refuge for fish and a reservoir during the dry season
1978 and farmers began again to decide
again what they could do the best with       past. Eventually, rice-fish culture          services to farmers, application of
their land for their families, some          emerged as an important rural farming        policy incentives and better
farmers chose to resume fish culture in      system by the early 1990’s. Its role in      accessibility to loans for renovation of
their paddy fields just as their             alleviating rural poverty and improving      conventional paddy field to suit fish
ancestors had done.                          the rural economy, especially in remote      culture and four nation-wide rice-fish
                                             provinces and regions, was widely            culture field seminars.
                                             recognized.                                     By 1999, the area of rice-fish farming
                                                In the 1990’s, rice-fish farming          in China reached 1,464,094 ha, an
                                             enjoyed a rapid expansion in the             increase by 71.6% from 853,000 ha in
                                             number of new entries and total area of      1994. The rice-fish farming area further
                                             rice-fish production area in the country.    expanded to 1,528,027 ha 2001. Food
                                             The farming system has extended from         fish production from paddy field
                                             pluvial and warm provinces in South,         increased from 206,900 tons in 1994 by
                                             Southeast, Central and East China to         214% to 649,996 tons in 1999. The food
                                             the Northeast and Northwest China,           fish production from rice field
                                             including several economically less          increased to 849,055 tons in 2001. The
                                             developed regions, such as Xinjiang          increase in food fish production from
     Development in the past                 Urgur Autonomous Region, Inner               paddy was not at the cost of rice yield
          two decades                        Mongolia and Gansu Province. During          reduction. Instead, rice yield from the
                                             the course, it evolved from traditional      rice-fish farming attained an average
In 1983, a national field seminar on rice-   family-scale extensive operations            increase of 225 kg per ha over the
fish culture was conducted for the first     towards medium-to-large scale or even        period 1994-1999.
time. As a result, the socio-economic        commercial scale operations in selected
and ecological benefit of rice-fish          provinces. The rapid expansion of rice-              Farming systems
culture started to draw the increasing       fish farming was the immediate result of
attention of farmers and various public      the growing interest and enthusiasm          The technological advances borrowed
sectors. A series of follow-up actions       among farmers in the rice-growing            from pond aquaculture and the
recommended during the seminar lead          areas, coupled with the continuous           changes in market demand have lead to
to the gradual spread of rice-fish           collective supporting efforts from the       the changes in the rice-fish farming
culture from its traditional homes to        public sector such as provision of           practices including the species used
areas where it was not practiced in the      relevant extension and advisory              and the scale of operation. To maximize

44                                                                                                                   aquaculture Asia
the use of natural productivity in the        at least 7,500 kg of rice and 750 kg of      (Rana nigromaculata), Crucian carp
paddy field space for the optimal             fish per ha without artificial feeding.      (Carassisu auratus,), snakehead
economic returns, various rice-fish           The fish yield can be significantly          (Oxyeleotris marmorata), loach, catfish
culture models with variations of             increased as farmers develop better          (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, Clarias
integration with crop and animal              skills in handling their fish and increase   leatheri, Silurus meridionalis), soft-shell
species were developed through field          their inputs, such as fish seeds and         turtle (Trionyx sinensis) and edible
trials by farmers in different parts of the   feed, into the system.                       snail.
country according to the local
conditions and available resources.             Fish species used in rice-fish             Development of large-scale
    Several newly developed rice-fish                      culture                              rice-fish culture
culture models with desirable economic
return became popular among farmers,          In the past two decades, the fish            Although China is a vast country, it
and the examples include the culture of       species employed in rice-fish culture as     has the world’s largest population and
high-value fish species with rice in          a whole have changed from simple             its land resources for crop farming and
Chongqing suburb, giant freshwater            species combination, such as Chinese         aquaculture development are limited for
prawn culture with rice in Jiangsu            carps and common carp, into a multi-         further expansion by area. Rice-fish
Province, native freshwater shrimp            species combination. Both monoculture        culture is an effective way of land
culture with rice in Shanghai suburb          and polyculture are adopted.                 utilization for food fish production with
and Chinese mitten-handed crab in             Nowadays, a great diversity of aquatic       nominal competition with other
Liaoning Province. With intensified           animal species is found in the rice-fish     agriculture activities for land and water
management and increased input,               culture systems, adapting to the wide        resources. Taking 1999 as example, the
including artificial feeding, rice farmers    range of farming systems and market          fish production from paddy field in that
could gain an average annual net profit       environment in different parts of the        year was 650,000 tons. It was
of USD 1,813 per ha from the animals          country. Apart from the traditional          equivalent to the fish production from
they raise in their paddy with these          finfish species, crustaceans,                86,667 ha of fish ponds with the yield
new models.                                   amphibians, mollusk and reptiles             of 7,500 kg/ha. It is estimated that
                                              became common in rice-fish culture.          about 6.7 million ha of paddy field in
      Paddy field renovation                  The general trend is shifting from low       China has the potential for conversion
                                              value carp dominated species towards         into rice-fish culture. If half of these
At present, most paddy fields used for        species that could fetch higher market       paddy fields are used for rice-fish
rice-fish culture have been renovated         price. Currently, the popular species for    culture, it is equivalent to the fish
to varying degrees in favor of fish           rice-fish culture in China are Chinese       production from 200,000 ha of fish
growth. The renovation usually                carps, tilapia, swamp eel (Monopterus        ponds based on the present-day fish
includes the excavation of ditches and        albus), eel (Anguilla japonica), giant       yield level.
sumps as shelter for fish and building        freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium                  Rice-fish culture is a relatively easy,
of higher and wider dikes. About 10-          rosenbergii), native freshwater shrimp       low-cost and low-risk entry point for
20% of the total area is converted for        (M. nipponensis), Chinese mitten-            rural farming communities to improve
these purposes. Paddy fields with such        handed crab (Eriocheir sinensis),            their livelihood and household income
renovations on average could produce          Letiobus cyprinelus, American frog           without jeopardizing the sustainability
                                                                                           of rice production. Compared with
                                                                                           pond-based aquaculture, rice-fish
                                                                                           culture is less restricted by initial
                                                                                           capital investment and labor
                                                                                           requirement. Rice-fish culture is now
                                                                                           used widely as an alternative livelihood
                                                                                           improvement and poverty alleviation.
                                                                                               In the 1990’s, China has undertaken
                                                                                           a series of mass campaign of rice-fish
                                                                                           culture extension. Several standardized
                                                                                           paddy field renovation models were
                                                                                           recommended and widely adopted. It
                                                                                           turned out that farmers with their
                                                                                           paddies renovated became less
                                                                                           vulnerable to flood and drought. For
                                                                                           instance, in rice-fish-duckweed-lotus-
                                                                                           water cane-chufa-vegetables
                                                                                           integration, the recommended
                                                                                           renovation includes an increase in dike
                                                                                           height to 80-100 cm, the excavation of a
                                                                                           120-150cm deep sump and 50-70cm
                                                                                           deep ditches. The sump, sometimes

October-December 2003 (Vol. VIII No. 4)                                                                                            45
brick and cement walled for durability,     What’s New in Aquaculture                   trochus at release, how to improve
accounts for 7-10% of the paddy field                   ...continued from page 42       survival and packing and handling. It
area while the ditch occupies 3-5% of                                                   includes a reference section for readers
the total area. Each hectare of paddy       fish; smoked and marinated fishery          who wish to explore topics in more
filed with such renovation could store      products; canning; silage; packing;         depth.
up to 7,500m3 of water during rainy         quality assurance, HACCP and sensory           Available from the Australian Centre
season. The sump could be used as           evaluation.                                 for International Agricultural Research,
reservoir for watering vegetables in dry       Available from: Directorate of           GPO Box 1571, Canberra ACT 2601,
season.                                     Information and Publications of             Australia, Tel: +61 (02) 6217 0500, Fax:
    Effective extension service at          Agriculture (DIPA), Krishi Anusandhan       +61 (02) 6217 0501, email
various levels, financial support and       Bhavan, Pusa, New Delhi-110012,    http://
incentive policy by government have         Phone: 91-11-25731350, Fax : 91-11-
played important roles in the wide          25731282,           publicationcategory?openform
spread of rice-fish culture in China in     icar6.htm                                      Conclusion: A useful introductory
the past two decades. At present, the          Conclusion: Recommended. This            manual and a good starting point for
government has formed a national            book provides a useful insight into         people wishing to become involved in
fisheries extension network and             manufacturing processes and their           trochus culture.
extension activities are carried out at     impact on product life, quality and
four different levels under the National    nutritional value.
Fisheries Extension Centre, namely                                                      Aquaculture Compendium - case study
provincial, prefecture, county and          Trochus hatchery seeding techniques         component
township levels. In some places,            – a practical manual
extensions officers also help to secure                                                              ...continued from page 43
fish seed supply and marketing              T.P. Crowe, M. Amos, P. Dwiono, G.
information for farmers. Rice-fish          Dobson and C. Lee.32pp.                     developed from published materials
culture has been incorporated into the         This manual is written for the           from our Compendium partners (AIT,
overall rural development plan and          general public, fisheries extension         IoA, NACA and WAS), and
agriculture development plan by many        officers and artisinal fishermen. It aims   collaborators (MRC, STREAM), with
local governments. In less developed        ot provide a basoc overview of the          discussions on-going with other
and remote regions, financial support       biology of trachus and its production       potential collaborators (Deacon
in the initial stage is a key factor to     in aquaculture facilities. It also          University, FAO, SEAFDEC, WorldFish
help the resource-poor farmers in           summarises the findings nd protocols        Center). Although it is CABI’s
paddy field renovation and first run        of the ACIAR Truchus Reseeding              intention to cover case studies in other
operations. Financial support from the      Research Project in practical terms. The    selected countries more fully in
government is usually delivered in the      manual contains sections on i) the          subsequent editions of the
forms of construction materials and         biology and life cycle of trochus, ii)      Aquaculture Compendium, it would
seeds, etc. Tax exemption is applied to     hatchery production of trochus and iii)     benefit the first release of the
rice-fish culture in places where it is     reseeding of trochus. The manual            Compendium if it were to have wider
promoted poverty reduction purpose.         addresses practical issues such as how      case study coverage. I intend to
Such incentive policy should be             to spawn and raise the shellfish,           “cherry pick” systems and issues of
continued.                                  selection of suitable sites, size of        particular relevance and interest from
    It is apparent that small-scale rice-                                               around the world so do contact me if
fish culture can bring improved                                                         you wish to contribute.
economic benefits to individual farmer                                                      Formats and examples of case
families. With more than 60% of China’s                                                 studies are in preparation. Each case
population occupied in agriculture,                                                     study is to be brief, about 10 pages,
there is a need for further extension on                                                with summarized text and bullet points.
rice-fish culture among rural                                                           There will be a standardised table of
communities on a mass scale, where it                                                   contents for growout production
is possible, in order that its                                                          systems although for other topics it
development can benefit the economy                                                     will be flexible because of diverse
and well being of the whole society.                                                    content. Case studies will be richly
Only when rice-fish culture is practiced                                                illustrated with photographs, tables
on a mass scale will its socio-economic                                                 and graphs.
and environmental benefit be realized.                                                      For more information contact
Therefore, the need in the immediate                                                    Martin Parr at
future for aquaculture development                                                      Specifically for case studies, contact
should include rice-fish culture as one                                                 Peter Edwards
of the top agenda items.                                                                Contributors will receive a small
                                                                                        honorarium to express appreciation
                                                                                        for their input to the Compendium.

46                                                                                                                 aquaculture Asia

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