Sustainability of rice intensification in Uruguay from 1993 to 2013

Cameron M. Pittelkow, Gonzalo Zorrilla, José Terra, Sara Riccetto, Ignacio Macedo, Camila Bonilla, Alvaro Roel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Despite increasing calls for the sustainable intensification (SI) of agriculture, environmental impacts associated with historical patterns of yield increase remain poorly understood, particularly involving multiple sustainability indicators. The objective of this study was to examine the sustainability of rice intensification in Uruguay from 1993 to 2013. National rice production and crop management records were used to estimate energy, nitrogen, water, and carbon footprints and agrochemical contamination risk for the rice phase of typical rice-pasture rotations in Uruguay. Results suggest that increases in national production were achieved with simultaneous increases in net energy yield and water use efficiency (56% and 41%, respectively). Although carbon footprint per unit of production decreased (-30%), potential nitrogen losses increased (37%) and elevated agrochemical contamination risk occurred in specific years. This study highlights the potential role of improved agronomy in balancing food production and environmental goals, while also indicating that similar holistic assessments are needed for other rice growing regions to better evaluate SI strategies and quantify potential tradeoffs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Food Security
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Carbon footprint
  • Eco-efficiency
  • Energy
  • Environmental impact
  • Nitrogen
  • Resource-use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research


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