Rice has been a staple food crop for millions of people for hundreds of years. This important crop is now a major part of 20% of the world’s population, with it being grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Whilst rice is known to be an important part of our diet, recently published research has shown how rice can be used in a unique way; to clean chemical runoff from farms before it can enter local water sources.
The investigation into the water filtering properties of rice involved planting four fields, two with and two without rice. These were then flooded with a mixture of commercially available pesticides and water to mimic chemical runoff usually found in flooded fields. The water quality was measured for the following two years. Interestingly, it was found that pesticide levels were lower in fields with rice, with levels dropping up to 85-97%.
The natural process of filtering by plants is known as phytoremediation, an ability some plants have evolved with to filter specific pollutants in the soil, air and water. Growing such plants on contaminated sites as a tool has shown to provide a service in cleaning low to moderate contaminated areas. The plant’s natural biological and chemical activities allows for the removal of metals, pesticides, crude oil and landfill leachates via complex transport systems.