Working Groups

Find out which topics are covered by the OrganoRice project

The OrganoRice project comprises of the following working groups:


Silicon fertilization in organic rice production


Conversion of traditional paddy fields to organic rice production requires assurance of rice cultivation being protected from pathogen and contamination while applying no pesticides and conventional fertilizers. For this purpose, a promising solution is proposed by applying silicon (Si) fertilizers, which are known for their role in strengthening plant growth and in alleviating the negative effects of pathogen and heavy metals such as cadmium (Cd) and arsenic (As) that are common pollutants in many paddy rice fields.

Silicon fertilization trials in the greenhouse


Various forms and amounts of silicon fertilizers will be tested in greenhouse and field trials to select the optimal application strategy of silicon fertilization, with the aim to maximize rice yield, minimize pathogen infection, and eliminate pollutants uptake by rice plants, which are monitored throughout the project. In addition, stable 29 Si isotope labelling experiments will be performed in greenhouse trials to trace the fate of silicon fertilizers in the paddy systems and to determine for the first time the use efficiency of Si fertilizers for organic rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta (MKD).

Silicon fertilization trials in the greenhouse

Expected Outcome

An optimized silicon fertilization strategy will be developed for the MKD where organic rice production is planned. If needed, different strategies will be adapted to different soil
conditions to be found in the MKD. Use efficiency of silicon fertilizers will be quantified to provide fundamental knowledge on silicon fertilization, which can be applied in
paddy fields in MKD for farmers who are interested in conversion their fields to organic farming in future, or who simply want to apply silicon fertilization to improve the quantity and quality of their rice products.

Silicon fertilization trials in field experiments

Monitoring pesticide and heavy metal contamination

Why to monitor soils and waters

Organically produced produces such as rice have to fulfil strict criteria for pesticide and heavy metal residues if they will be brought on the national and international market. Therefore, the knowledge of the contamination of soils and irrigation water with pesticides and heavy metals is of uppermost importance for planning, establishing and operating organic rice production. In general, sites of organic production should be selected at areas with low background contamination and where the import of contamination from conventional farming or other anthropogenic sources is expected to be low. Additionally, possible reduction of those contaminants should be monitored over the time to guarantee optimal rice quality.

Point pollution from left-over pesticide containers

How to monitor soils and waters

The background contamination of pesticides and heavy metals will be determined at the landscape level prior conversion of conventional to organic rice production. Therefore, soil samples will be taken at regular spacing and at locations potentially prone to contamination (e.g., major irrigation channels, fruit plantations and vegetable fields). During the conversion those points will be resampled for monitoring. Within the converted area, the soil and incoming irrigation water will be regularly sampled and analyzed. All samples will be transferred to Germany and pesticide residues will be determined by LC-MSMS and heavy metal concentrations by ICP.

Diffuse pollution from spraying

Expected Outcome

The pesticide and heavy metal monitoring program will allow the consortium to follow the ‘self cleaning’ effect of the soils after the conversion to organic production. Additionally, it will provide information about the risks of pesticides and heavy metals translocated from adjacent conventional farming into the organic farmed areas via the irrigation water and flooding. In combination with detailed land use information from remote sensing and hydrological information about irrigation water network adaptation to the irrigation system can be provided for decision makers and planners. Finally, the results will be used to inform the opportunity maps for potential organic farming areas in the provinces under study.

Entry into organic farming areas

Understanding surface water dynamics in the delta


The Mekong Delta is a highly dynamic region, where solutions for adapting to climate change are urgently needed. Monitoring current crop cultivation as well as hydrological aspects (quantity, quality, pathways) helps identifying suitable regions for organic rice farming. One important aspect is minimizing the impact of irrigation water from conventional cultivated fields on organic rice fields. Therefore, potential pathways of pesticides and other chemicals through waterways need to be determined to avoid conflicts between conventional and organic farming that could jeapordise the ability to fulfil the criteria required for organic certification.


Remote sensing and hydrological simulations are tools to map, predict, and optimize crop types, agricultural practices (conventional and organic) and irrigation water pathways in the
Mekong Delta. The European Copernicus satellites Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 carry radar and multispectral sensors, able to monitor plant growth conditions at high spatial resolution.
Analyses of remotely sensed data will be accompanied by conceptual simulations of irrigation flow paths to optimally plan the locations of organic and non-organic farming practices. In addition, we will analyse planning documents, infrastructure data and engage local waterway authorities to learn more about local irrigation systems and how they are managed.

Expected Outcome

The primary end product of this work within OrganoRice will be a spatially explicit opportunity map with recommendations and detailed information for potential organic rice production areas in the selected provinces in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. This map will be provided to stakeholders including the regional administration for further development of organic rice production in the region.
Additionally, recommendations for optimal irrigation pathways will be provided helping to maintain organic production in coexistence with conventional farming.

Dragonflies react on environmental qualities

Larval dragonflies live for quite some time in the water, whereby adult dragonflies live in terrestrial environments. So they can react on the conditions in both environments, and therefore, indicate the quality of both. Organic production should favor a more diverse ecosystem and so more dragonfly species and higher population sizes should be found in organically managed systems.

Typical rice paddy in intensive use.


We will investigate first the dragonfly species present in different conventionally farmed rice paddy fields and their neighboring biotopes (ponds, ditches etc.). In a second step, we will monitor the dragonfly species after conversion to organic production. We will collect data on adult dragonflies, but also if possible on exuviae and larvae. Based on the results we will develop a simple determination key, which can be used by the farmers to determine the environmental quality with the dragonflies by themselves.

Agriocmemis femina a male widespread damselfly in rice paddies

Expected Outcome

As the biotopes should after conversion to organic production be more diverse in insects (adults and larvae) and also worms etc., which is the prey of dragonflies, the fauna should be more diverse and the population sizes should also be bigger. Less pesticides should also lead to this effect and as a result the rice paddy ecosystem should be more “healthy”.

Couple of Orthetrum sabina
a species hunting all types of hoppers and very beneficiary for paddies
Pest management

Why to research plant protection solution for organic rice farming

Plant disease and pests are the main factors affecting rice yield. In conventional pest control, methods are mainly based on chemical usage. In organic rice farming, pesticides are strictly excluded. Therefore, pest management solutions based on ecofriendly methods such as cultural practices combining conservative and augmented biological control, and induced resistance in pest control for organic rice farming are necessary.

Pest management solutions in organic rice farming

How to control plant pest in organic rice farming

Research includes 6 activities, in which activity 1-5 include 1) research on ecological technology model as conservative biocontrol for insect management ; 2) research on tillage and water management practices on weed management; 3) research on biological control and culture practice for management of golden apple snail ; 4) research on application
of semiochemicals and biological control for management of insect pests; and ( 5) research on application of induced resistance combining biological control for management of rice diseases . These research will conduct on field conditions. The
potential management solution for each disease and pest will be applied in final activity 6 “Developing integrated pest management process for organic rice cultivation”

“flower side rice field model”

Expected Outcome

  • Identify the potential method for controlling weeds, golden apple snail, insect pest (rice leaf folder, brown plant hopper, etc.), rice disease ( blast bacterial leaf blight, grain rot, etc .) for organic rice farming.
  • Develop successful model with integrated management for important diseases and pests in organic rice production for transferring to farmers.
Bacillus sp. control bacterial leaf blight
Field planning


Field experiments and monitoring at the landscape and field scale are important to assess the status of the soil, water, and crop during the conversion from conventional to organic rice. For better understanding of the processes and changes in the soil as well as reactions of the plants on the conversion dedicated fields experiments are required.


At the landscape level, the actual state of the pesticide and heavy metal contamination, soil organic carbon and total nitrogen content will be assessed by sampling the soil. For pesticides and heavy metals also surface waters (irrigation channels, ponds etc.) will be sampled. These information will be used to provide information on the suitability of areas for organic conversion but also to follow pathways of contamination from conventional farming. This work will be performed in all three provinces (Vinh Long, An Giang and Dong Thap ), whereby Vinh Long as the core province will be sampled more frequently and denser in space.

Location of the three provinces included in the OrganoRice project

Dedicated field experiments will be performed in Vinh Long province only within the selected site to be converted. Hereby, experimental plots in triplicates will be established for the individual field trials such as organic and silicon fertilization, organic pest control etc.. In the field trials also some wetlands will be constructed aiming to improve water quality by filtering out sediment bound pollutants but also to increase biodiversity.

The results from the experimental core sites will be compared to reference sites located in conventional farming systems and if possible also with sites located in already converted organic rice without the dedicated treatment (e.g., silicone fertilization). Finally, some experiments will be done in greenhouse experiments at Can Tho University or University Bonn.

Sketch of the experimental sites to be established in Ving Long province

Expected Outcome

The information gathered at the landscape level and feed into the knowledge platform will help to identify optimal location for organic farming of rice in the provinces. These information will be also used in the development of the opportunity map for organic rice growing.
The field experiments will help to optimize organic and silicon fertilization, organic pest control and establishment of a rich biodiversity. We expect that these findings can be transferred to other locations in the provinces.

Knowledge platform where all data will be stored from field experiments
Rice quality assessment


Converting intensive rice into organic production will not only impact the harvest quantity (yields) but also quality. Especially, as for organic production often high quality rice varieties will be selected such as fragrant or even medical rice.
As the overall rice quality might be impacted not only by the growing conditions but also during drying and storage, the rice quality has to be assesses during all production steps Only a high rice quality guarantees best prices and access to national and international markets

Photo: Jens Kruse


  1. Amylose content
    The amylose content is the most important determinant of rice quality. Defatted rice flour is dispersed in NaOH solution. Iodine solution is added to an aliquot portion and the absorbance of the formed complex is spectrophotometrically determined.
  2. Total phenolic content
    Determination of total phenolic content will be made with a methanol extract of rice flour and the Folin Ciocalteu phenol reagent. Absorbance of the solution is measured at 725 nm.
  3. Antioxidative capacity
    The copper reduction assay is based on the reduction of Cu(II) to Cu(I) by the combined action of all antioxidants in a sample. The formed Cu(I phenanthroline derivative complex gives a broad absorbance peak at 570 nm.
  4. Anthocyanins and flavonoid(glycoside)s
    Phenolic composition in the rice extracts will be examined by high performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry as these compounds are of high importance as natural antioxidants.
  5. Fragrance
    Fragrance is considered one of the most important grain quality traits in rice. 2 Acetyl 1 pyrroline (2AP) is the major compound responsible for the characteristic popcorn flavor of cooked rice. This odorant and others will be analyzed by headspace GC MS.

Expected Outcome

The transition of rice cultivation from intensive to organic farming will probably influence the rice quality as a key factor in determining market prices. Therefore, the rice quality will be evaluated with regard to nutritional benefits, aroma, and fragrance.

Folin Ciocalteu Reagent
Photo by Pudidotdk on wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
LC-MS/MS chromatograms of quercetinglycosides

Evaluating organic agriculture transition


In order to better inform decision making and build conditions for
more effective transitions from conventional to organic rice agriculture in the Mekong Delta region, UNU EHS will lead a synthesis of knowledge produced by the different working groups of the OrganoRice project into a multi criteria analysis. The purpose of this analysis will be to evaluate the conversion to organic rice and to identify the options for conversion that will help to minimize negative impacts while ensuring that the needs of different people can be addressed


We will employ a multi criteria analysis for evaluating the organic rice transition. This is a structured decision making tool that compares the relative costs and benefits of various approaches, in this case for rice production. In order to assess the best approaches for successful transition to organic rice, key assessment criteria will be co developed between project members and external partners. Data produced by each working group, for example on economic and non economic benefits of organic agriculture, will then inform how different techniques perform against these criteria (see figures). Results will then be integrated into an overall evaluation.

Expected Outcome

The multi criteria evaluation is intended to be a holistic and quantitative way of validating the practice of converting from
conventional rice growing techniques to organic practices. The results from this evaluation can be a valuable communication tool in explaining the benefits and feasibility of more sustainable agricultural approaches to farmers and politicians alike. In addition, valuable information on best practices for obtaining maximum benefits for the widest range of people can help to minimize unintended negative consequences of conversion and ensure people can best access economic gains in a sustainable way that also protects the natural environment.


Why and what

Conversion to organic practices is only useful when considering the markets. An opportunity map with organisations, pathways and considerations in order to reach market presence is needed to support market-specific conversion activities. The consumer as the ultimate judge of market acceptance needs to be identified and informed about the multiple benefits of consuming organic rice.
Other market-related stakeholders like producers, traders, wholesalers and authorities also need to be motivated to support the both initial conversion and to provide the ongoing market access.


Including the different market actors means first of all understanding their needs in their various roles in the value chain. Compiling existing data and information as well as round table discussions will further understanding and constitute a strong basis for the identification and the structuring of needs. Those needs will be aligned and integrated with the data and information which will be generated by the project
and its partners, as well as the digital market information tool.

Expected Outcome

As an end result the consolidated opportunity map and the knowledge-based digital information platform will lead the way to the market, identifying potential products and required procedures to be used in order to satisfy the expectations and demands of the actors.
The digital tracing of production and processing opens the door to leverage the digital twin for direct access and communication with the different stakeholders and ultimately the consumer supposed to buy the products.
Access to the data enables the authorities to make informed decisions in view of enabling and facilitating further and continued conversion to organic production.

Isotope tracing

Content will be added later


Why and What

Transparency and knowledge are two key pillars in the process of converting traditional to organic rice production. Information must be collected, structured and made available to all market participants in a structured form as a basis for knowledge building at the various levels along the entire value chain. This applies to cultivation techniques to be conveyed to farmers as well as proof of professional production for later certification of the rice or nutritional information for consumers to promote organically produced rice.
In the project, KIAG will serve as technical service provider for data capturing and knowledge sharing as well as an active promoter for the project ideas.

Weather and sensor data


Based on a specification created by the stakeholders, “WeTrace”, a proven open-source IT solution for collecting production data from farm to fork, will be configured in order to facilitate data capturing and reporting during the course of the project. Data collection and evaluation will be organized in close cooperation with Can Tho University. Data obtained flow into an opportunity map with recommendations and detailed information for potential organic rice growing areas especially in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.
Findings from the data obtained and other specific information are made available to the respective target groups on an innovative knowledge-based digital information platform.

Market information system

Expected Outcome

An opportunity map with recommendations and detailed information for potential organic rice growing areas will be available to the stakeholders for the further development of organic rice production in the region.
The Information platform supporting data flow and data visualization will be available to all stakeholders from farmer to trader to policy maker.
The “WeTrace”-tool for the specific needs of organic rice in the Mekong Delta and its data will be in place.
In close cooperation with local authorities and ministries, a first draft of a potential roadmap for the certification of the organic rice production is in place.

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