RiceTec, Inc. and Crop Protection Services have joined forces to contribute $75,000 to a conservation project led by Trent Roberts, soil scientist, with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
This contribution fulfills a matching grant to total $150,000 from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for Dr. Roberts’ research, which looks to demonstrate the benefits of cover crops for rice producers.
Dr. Roberts’ project, called Healthy Soils, Happy Rice, studies the benefits of Austrian winter peas as a winter cover crop on rice fields. The hardy, vine-like peas are members of the legume family, which includes a wide range of beans, peas, and nuts.
“The advantage of using legumes for cover crops is they employ naturally occurring bacteria in the soil to fix nitrogen in their plant tissue,” Roberts said. “When farmers till the soil to prepare for spring planting, the nitrogen is then deposited from the root systems of the peas back into the soil, improving fertility for the rice.
RiceTec invested in this project “because it aligns appropriately with the company’s Smart Rice efforts,” an official said. “Smart Rice is already producing higher rice yields throughout Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Arkansas – while using less land, water, and other resources.
“RiceTec is pleased to support research that seeks more sustainable rice production technologies,” said Dr. Brian Ottis, RiceTec global solutions development lead. “Efforts like this fit perfectly with our Smart Rice program, which combines sustainable crop production practices with our high-yielding hybrids to produce the most earth-friendly rice available.”
Rice key crop in business
CPS and RiceTec agreed to make this matching pledge in May of this year but it wasn’t until last week that NRCS awarded Roberts with the Conservation Innovation Grant.
“CPS is very happy to support the Arkansas rice industry, as rice is a key crop to our business and this program is something we could truly get behind,” said Randy Ouzts, U.S. Rice Manager at CPS. “As growers look for new ways to manage farming operations we’re pleased to partner with RiceTec and Dr. Roberts’ research.”
Roberts has already planted the cover crop in a field on a farm owned by Fred Schmidt of Lawrence County, Ark. Once the ground dries out from recent rains, he plans to plant additional fields on farms belonging to Sloan Hampton in Arkansas County and Wes McNulty in Jefferson County, Ark.
“The nitrogen fixation from the cover crop’s biomass can reduce the required N rates by as much as 60 pounds per acre,” Roberts said. “That can equal a significant savings in the cost of fertilizer.”
Roberts’ research will not only test nitrogen levels in the soil using the Nitrogen Soil Test for Rice but will also monitor diseases and insect pests in the demonstration fields and measure yields from the rice crops planted in them next year.
RiceTec is confident in Roberts’ research as other research has found farmers using Smart Rice produce similar amounts of grain on 15- to 20-percent less land area with 15- to 20-percent lower nitrogen use; plus, Smart Rice has been shown to use up to 36 percent less water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent per bushel of rice produced.
Smart rice equals sustainable rice
“The more research that is done the more we learn about the advantages of Smart Rice as a primary way to improve the sustainability of rice production,” Ottis said. “Smart Rice addresses all three aspects of sustainability by improving producer economics, enhancing the social profile and reducing the carbon footprint of rice production on our environment.”
To learn more about the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and Dr. Roberts research visit, http://www.uaex.edu/media-resources/news/december2015/12-04-2015-Ark-NCRS-grant.aspx. For more information on RiceTec’s Smart Rice visit www.smartrice.com.