Organic rice farming produces rice using no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Although yields from organic paddies are often not as large as from intensive, chemically treated paddies, the lower cost or production due to the reduced costs of treatments can actually make organic paddies as profitable, and sometimes more profitable, than high-yield paddies. In addition, using organic techniques places a lower strain on natural farming ecosystems.
Not all varieties of rice are ideally suited for organic rice farming. Many modern varieties of rice have been optimized for yield, but don't have as much natural resistance to pests and often require chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Some recently introduced varieties of rice have actually been optimized for organic farming. For example, the J-18 variety of rice grown in the Philippines produces higher quality grains and has a stalk which is better able to extract nutrients from organic sources. J-18 also has a natural resistance to many common rice pests.
In moderate production of organic rice paddies, fertilization with the right varieties isn't necessary, according to the Food & Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) for the Asia Pacific Region. In fact, FFTC studies show that fertility soil fertility in sustainably farmed fields increased over time. If fertilization is called for, organic rice production uses animal manure, carbonized rice hulls and other agricultural and organic wastes.
In intensively cultivated rice paddies, one way to ensure soil health over time and optimum fertility is to rotate crops. Many farmers alternate rice and soybeans in the same paddy to help deal with pest buildups. However, some people have recommended rotating crops on a three-year cycle using rice, soybeans, and a grain crop. By rotating crops over a three-year cycle, the life cycles of crop specific weeds can be broken.
Although crop rotation is the best way to deal with weeds and pests in a rice paddy, there are other ways to control certain types of pests. Insect infestations can be minimized by the introduction of a predatory insect that is harmless to the rice crop. Some organic farmers assume a certain percentage of loss to pests, thus taking a "live-and-let-live" attitude in cases where the crops are not at risk of complete destruction.