Grasslands present dilemma

A week after British researchers released a study warning that the nation’s grasslands would soon be lost if drastic action was not taken to protect them, some agricultural experts have called for moderation, noting that the intensive rice cultivation blamed for the grasslands’ destruction is critical to the nation’s developing commercial rice sector. … Dr Volker Kleinhenz, an agricultural consultant who has researched rice cultivation in the Kingdom extensively, called the area around the Tonle Sap, “exceptional” because of the readily available source of water for irrigation. “Double-cropping can double annual yields. Furthermore, the yields and quality of dry-season rice are usually better than that of wet-season rice, predisposing this crop for export,” he said. … Since 2005, the year researchers say intensive rice cultivation became the leading cause of destruction of the grasslands, rice exports have increased exponentially – from 5,971 tonnes in 2005 to 192,666 tonnes last year – according to statistics from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.