Raising fish in rice paddies brings to farmers in Asia an important source of protein, as well as extra income. Rice–Fish Culture in China is an important addition to the English language literature in this area. Along with biological and ecological aspects of rice–fish culture, this free online book (edited by Kenneth T. MacKay) addresses its economic and social dimensions.
From the preface and introduction:
A National Rice–Fish Farming Systems Symposium was held in China at the Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Sciences in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, 4–8 October 1988. China has had a long history of rice–fish farming. As rural areas have been industrialized in recent years, rice–fish farming has gained attention because it is an organic method that combines rice and fish production while maximizing labour and ricefield resources.
Rice has always been the number one grain crop in China in terms of both area and yield. During the 1950s, the tradition of rice–fish farming developed substantially but the benefits were not significant. Fish harvests were poor because the method was based only on traditional experiences and technical difficulties were encountered. However, rice–fish farming developed rapidly and by 1988, 800 000 ha were being harvested with a average yield of 133 kg/ha. In some areas, yields exceeded 3750 kg/ha and many farmers harvested 15 000 kg of rice and 1500 kg of fish per hectare. The incomes of these farmers increased considerably. The techniques of rice–fish farming improved markedly as additional skill and experience were acquired.
Research was focused on the common needs of fish and rice for water, light, and nutrition under local conditions. Many new techniques were developed to suit various locations: ridge and ditch systems; semidry land; ditch manure pits; ditches with floating water; and rice–duckweed–fish systems.
Rice–fish farming is no longer limited to the household economy and to production for personal or family consumption. It is now part of farmland improvement, soil improvement, and environmental protection. Rice–fish farming has increased the productivity of ricefields and is fast becoming an important part of the commodity economy. It has also played a significant role in reforming the structure of rural industries.