The National Park of the Axios – Loudias – Aliakmon Delta contains 10,000 hectares of rice fields, covering almost one third of its entire size. Rice cultivation began experimentally in the Chalastra region in 1949. Today, the plain of Thessaloniki produces about 70% of all Greek rice, which is extremely important for the local and national economy.
Rice is one of the most important products in the Thessaloniki plain. It is a product of high nutritional value and one of man’s basic kinds of food. The varieties cultivated in our region are the Japonica and the Indica.
Rice is an annual plant. Each cultivating period begins with the preparation of the soil by the producers. This includes plowing, leveling and the addition of basic fertilizers. In spring, mainly at the beginning of May, follows the flooding of the fields with water and the planting of the seed. Then, the plant develops inside the water during the summer, and harvesting takes place in September and October.
The irrigation of the fields takes place through an extensive irrigation network, constructed within the context of the land improvement works carried out in the 1960’s. The landscape of the region is composed of the flat plates, the so called ‘frying pan’ paddy fields, irrigation channels and drainage trenches.
Rice fields and wild life
Rice fields are very important for the region’s fauna, as they function as artificial seasonal wetlands, ‘complementing’ the natural ecosystem. In May, during the peak of the birds’ reproductive period, the rice fields are flooded to receive the rice seeds.
The flooded fields are filled with small invertebrate organisms and amphibia. Therefore, they attract little egrets, night herons, glossy ibises, Mediterranean gull, seagulls and other birds seeking food for themselves and for their hungry chicks.
Naturally, one cannot overlook the problems and pressures placed on the natural environment by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers, by the burning of agricultural residue and by the over-consumption of water.
The continuation of rice culture within this protected area is not only allowed, but constitutes a condition for the balanced function of the ecosystem. A necessary condition is the application of environmentally-friendly production methods, as well as the rational use of pesticides and fertilizers.