Keeping rice fields flooded for long periods of the growing season can increase methane gas emissions, which most scientists believe are a major contributor to the rise in greenhouse gases.
But research by the USDA-ARS Delta Water Management Research Unit, based at Arkansas State University, indicates that furrow-irrigated or row rice fields, which are not flooded with levee systems, may help mitigate the rise in methane emissions.
Arlene Adviento-Borbe, research agronomist with the Delta Water Management Research Unit, is assessing conservation management practices in irrigated rice and cotton systems while seeking to reduce use greenhouse gas emissions and water use.
“Her team was the first to report greenhouse gas emission from row-irrigated rice, where they found that increased nitrous oxide emissions were offset by reductions in methane,” said Reba, research hydrologist and acting research leader for the Delta Water Management Research Unit.
“That is good news for rice farmers participating in carbon markets,” said Reba, who described the unit’s activities while welcoming attendees to the 24th annual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference. This year’s conference was held online (www.arkswec.com.)
Besides working on greenhouse gases, Adviento-Borbe has also been seeking rice genes that could help rice plants cope with high night air temperatures, a phenomenon that can have an impact on rice quality. Her work is being conducted in collaboration with Arkansas State University researchers and with RiceTec.
“We are all working in collaboration with professors at Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Memphis and other institutions to advance our understanding of row crop systems, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality response to managed aquifer recharge, machine learning in agriculture and amendments in rice,” Reba noted.
“We are using remote sensing and spatial analysis to improve water management and incorporating the use of drones in plot, field and farm studies. However, all of our efforts come back to the mission of preserving water quantity and water quality for agriculture in the lower Mississippi River basin.”
Reba applauded the Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference steering committee for organizing the event. “I have been fortunate to be a steering committee member of this conference for the past 10 years and have seen the conference participation steadily grow to nearly 400-plus participants prior to the pandemic.”
The steering committee is made up of producers, university, state and federal agency representatives.
“Despite the challenges that virtual conferences carry, the steering committee is thankful for the Arkansas Cooperative Extension communication team for their technical assistance in producing the virtual program,” she noted. “We are optimistic that we will see you all in person next year for the 25th annual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference.”
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