Why are Swiss farmers being encouraged to grow rice?
Farmers in certain Swiss cantons are being encouraged to start growing rice in an effort to preserve and regenerate some of the country’s wetlands, and improve biodiversity in Switzerland. Switzerland currently imports much of its rice from other countries across Europe and the wider world.
Switzerland’s wetlands under threat
Scientists at Agroscope, Switzerland’s federal centre for agricultural research, have found that by simply planting rice, the country could help to preserve Switzerland’s wetlands and keep species of flora and fauna flourishing. Wetlands across Switzerland are becoming increasingly rare as the land is regularly drained to allow for construction and farming.
Wetlands are also often drained just for new crops to be grown in their place. In the process, habitats are destroyed and nutrients from the wetlands that could nourish the soil end up running into other areas, alongside pollutants.
Rice production in Switzerland
While some smaller farms in Ticino have produced rice in Switzerland for several years, the country relies heavily on imports for much of its rice consumption. Proposals to increase rice production have been under consideration since trials with the crop in Vaud and Chablais in 2017.
Agroscope is now considering flooded rice production as a halfway house between restoring wetlands and providing farmers with agricultural solutions. The organisation is now set to provide financial support to farmers willing to produce rice in region-specific wetlands from 2023.