The Riso Amico+ project is supported by the Piedmont Region under the RDP 2014-2020 (Measure 16 – Operation 16.1.1), and aims to develop sustainable rice supply chains, capable of respecting the environment, guaranteeing production of quality, enhancing the commitment and sensitivity of rice growers and considering farm and territorial peculiarities. An Operattional Group (OG) was constituted together with the project and was made up of public bodies such as the University of Turin, the Ente Nazionale Risi, the Piedmont Po Protected Areas Management Authority, the Province of Vercelli, a service company and ten farms located in the Piedmont rice-growing area.
The overall objectives of the project are based on enhancing the ecosystem services produced by the rice agro-ecosystem. These services represent the benefits that the agro-ecosystem provides directly or indirectly to the community, which can be amplified through the adoption and dissemination of certain good agronomic, environmental, landscape and naturalistic practices. Ecosystem services can be distinguished into: true “supply” services, which are the utilities directly related to agricultural activity, such as the production of food, fiber and fuel; “cultural” services, represented by the initiatives that aim to improve naturalistic, landscape and recreational aspects; and agro-ecosystem “support” and “regulation” services, which are instead indirect benefits that result from improving the quality of air, soil, water, flora and fauna directly or indirectly as a result of the adoption of certain agronomic practices. For example, supporting services include the stock of soil organic matter that results from atmospheric carbon sequestration by crops. Some increase in carbon stored in the soil can be achieved through the adoption of certain cultural practices such as conservation tillage or the adoption of cover crops. In this context, the activities carried out by the OG have included the adoption by farms of some “good practices” to improve agri-environmental, natural/landscape and commodity indicators. Examples include the adoption of agroforestry practices, the development of non-chemical strategies for weed management, and the application of precision agriculture.
The implementation in the farms of these interventions allows the organization of demonstration activities aimed at the OG members but also at other actors outside the group with the aim of disseminating information on good agri-environmental practices, encouraging the exchange of experiences among agri-environmental actors and sharing operational strategies. As part of the project, several training activities were also organized, attended by all OG members, and held by experts in the different sectors of the rice supply chain. The topics of the training meetings were agreed upon with rice growers who expressed the need to explore certain issues in depth, such as, for example, post-harvest paddy rice preservation and storage. The OG also produced a list of good agri-environmental and commodity practices for the improvement of related indicators. These practices have been selected by the OG for inclusion in a sustainable rice production specification. The actual possibility of applying the different practices may vary significantly depending on specific farm conditions and the possibility of accessing financial resources under various programs such as CAP and RDP. For this reason, in order to prioritize the choice of practices that can be applied by the farmers to improve the indicators, and to identify how to “weigh” the potential benefit resulting from their adoption, a range of indicators have been developed to be used as tools for the objective quantification of the production, environmental, natural, landscape and commodity performance of the farms involved. The system developed to calculate the indicators will help rice farmers, also outside the OG, to recognize and choose the best practices to adopt and the production strategies best suited to their farm. The specification will guarantee to the farmers an added value of their production that will be recognized by the consumer.

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