Sevilla (Andalusia, Southern Spain) is the main rice growing area in Spain, both in surface (with an area of over 36,000 ha) as well as in production (over 320,000 metric tons per year). Rice growing in the region is highly professionalised, and currently over 98% of the cultivation area is under a Rice Integrated Production System. Rice cultivation is carried out in the area surrounding the Doñana marshes, the most important wintering site for migrating waterbirds in the Mediterranean region, with rice fields providing a relevant feeding habitat for birds, especially during the post-harvest period.
However, rice growing in the area faces serious challenges, mostly derived from the uncertainties about the availability of freshwater, whose current situation will worsen according to most of climate projection models. Furthermore, with rice cultivation being globally a key source of methane and nitrous oxide, there is strong interest from public and private actors to minimise diffuse greenhouse gas emissions from this crop.
There is thus a strong potential for the region to develop, adjust and implement rice cultivation and post-harvest practices that permit to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions whilst maintaining and improving its positive effects on biodiversity. This will permit to increase the resilience and enhance the sustainability of the rice sector, becoming an international reference in sustainable rice farming.