The rice-fish culture is an innovative farming system in which, rice is the main crop and fish fingerlings are taken as additional means to secure extra income. Fish are grown concurrently or alternately with rice.

Rice-cum fish culture is practiced in many rice-growing belts of the world including China, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India.
Rice and fish are the staple food of India.
Rice Monoculture v/s Rice-Fish Integrated farming
Rice-Fish Integrated Farming    Rice Monoculture
•    The co-culture systems have beneficial effects on farm income and improving the livelihood of rural farmers. For Instance- Rice yields in rice–fish culture were 8% higher, labor input 19% lower, and material costs were 7% lower.
•    Rice- fish culture reduces poverty of the farmers and also improves the yield, create employment opportunity, and increase nutrient intake which brings food security for them.     •    The Rice monoculture generates relatively low income due to higher cost and undiversified income opportunities.

•    Reduce Green House Gas emission- Aquatic creatures especially bottom feeders (crabs and carps) disturb the soil layers by their movement or sometimes searching for food by checking soil, thereby reducing anaerobic respiration and reduced GHG Methane gas.
•    Aquatic fishes increase diluted oxygen in field water and in soil, which shifts anaerobic digestion to aerobic digestion and helps to reduce CH4 emissions.
    •    Unchecked waterlogging in Rice field makes anaerobic respiration more intense. Consequently, more amount of Methane GHG gets into atmosphere.

•    Rice and Fish both thrive in symbiotic relationship.
    •    No symbiosis is noted.
•    Fishes lead to increase in organic fertilization through excreta and remains of artificial feed.
•    The rice-fish system requires only a small amount of pesticide and fertilizer.
•    Increased mineralization of the organic matter and increased aeration of the soil resulting from the puddling of mud by benthic feeders.    •    Large amounts of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are used in growing rice.
•    The method of rice-fish is also beneficial to restore soil fertility and avoid soil degradation, which is a major global environmental issue
    •    Widespread soil degradation due excess use of fertilizers and due absence of tillage.

•    Better tillering of the rice seedlings due to the activity of the fish.
    •    Limited tillering due to absence of any underneath activity.
•    Reduction in the number of harmful insects, such as paddy stems borers, whose larvae are eaten by fish.
    •    Threat from insects remains unchecked except by way of insecticides. Using insecticides add cost to the farmer.
•    Fishes controls algae and weeds (by phytophagons fish) which compete with rice for light and nutrients.
    •    Algae and weed remain unchecked through natural means. Hence to save crop losses, treatment with weed control herbicides is required. It also adds to the cost.

Limitations of Integrated Rice-Fish Farming
•    Water control is crucial and rice fields cannot be allowed to dry up while fish stocks are present.
•    In case of excess water or field flood situation, stocked fish may get carried away by water. Flood control is even more difficult in rain-fed rice systems.
•    Areas of rice fields deepened for fish culture may result in less rice growing area.
•    Having fish present may help dissuade farmers from using pesticides. Pesticides have the potential for poisoning fish and some types can be absorbed by the fish and then ingested by humans.

Need for Conservation
    Rice-fish system in India is in urgent need of conservation and promotion. Its’ role in preserving biodiversity, protecting food security, enriching the soil and lowering greenhouse gas emissions is remarkable and visible.
    In light of the present situation of rice-fish farming in India, basic research on the rice-fish ecosystem should be emphasized, including research on basic techniques of rice-fish farming and technology required for engineering intervention.
    The policymakers should consider the problems of initial investment for poor rural communities and compensate them with farmer-friendly policies, easy loan schemes etc.

Rapid human population growth poses many challenges, especially food shortages, malnutrition, limited means of irrigation and shrinking land resources besides deteriorating environmental quality. Sustainable intensification of agricultural production systems is needed today to address the ever-increasing pressure on food and the environment. Thus, solutions need to be sought to improve the management of rice production systems. Rice-fish farming constitutes a unique agro-landscape across the world, especially in tropical and sub-subtropical region including India.

SRI method of rice cultivation, Kuttanad below sea level farming