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RiceTec Field Day: Studies show hybrid rice offers sustainability benefits

Sustainability is a term that has been a bit slow to catch on in the farming community. But it’s becoming increasingly important for major food processors and retailers.

As consumers demand to know more about where and how their food is produced, companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s and Wal-Mart are seeking more information about topics such as greenhouse gas emissions from their suppliers.

And farm organizations and farm input providers are beginning to respond with studies aimed at learning just what those emissions and the overall carbon footprint might be for their crops. RiceTec Inc., is one of the latest entities to do so.

“Recent data out of the University of Arkansas has found that hybrid rice or Smart Rice is about a 30 percent more efficient user of water,” says Brian Ottis, marketing and client support manager for RiceTec. “It’s about a 15 percent more efficient user of nitrogen and emits about 23 percent less greenhouse gas per pound of rice produced compared to conventional rice varieties.”

Dr. Ottis’ comments came during an interview at the conclusion of the RiceTec Arkansas Field Day at its Arkansas Business Center near Harrisburg in northeast Arkansas. Dr. Lanier Nalley, an agricultural economist from the University of Arkansas presented results from the study at the field day.

“So we learned that Kellogg’s made a big announcement yesterday about using Field to Market as their metrics for measuring sustainability in agriculture,” said Ottis. “And we feel that Smart Rice is positioned perfectly for this. If a company wants to source the most sustainable rice available, they have to get Smart Rice because it really does provide a higher yield with a lower greenhouse gas emission.”

Ottis also recapped comments made during the field day about RiceTec’s new herbicide-tolerant rice program.

RiceTec plant breeders are looking at two different rice “mutants” that are tolerant to 1) a grass herbicide or 2) a broadleaf herbicide. The rice lines are not genetically modified or GMO rice, but have been selected through an exhaustive screening process to determine which naturally-occurring lines tolerate those herbicides.

“One of these will target red rice and the other broadleaf weeds in rice,” he said. “So when you combine the two you really have a full-spectrum package of a weed control system that we hope to launch later this decade. We are doing a lot of work on it, and we feel like it will be something we can deliver to the customer, and they can rotate with Clearfield rice. It will be a nice fit.”

RiceTec believes the new system will control any outcrosses or ALS herbicide-resistant red rice that might be problematic for the Clearfield system.”

Ottis also discussed other hybrids RiceTec is developing that will offer other benefits, including a hybrid that is non-pubescent and has a smooth leaf and a smooth seed coat  that will reduce the itch and have less wear and tear on harvesting equipment. “It has a very nice long grain length, and it is very low in chalk.

“Of course with the weather we’ve been having in the Mid-South and the Gulf Coast, we think the quality of this year’s rice crop should be fantastic,” he said. “We’ve had just perfect conditions during the flowering and the grain filling periods for rice, and we will have some great milling characteristics coming out of the field this year.”

For more information about RiceTec, visit


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