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California rice growers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Rice contributes about a tenth of 1 percent of the GHG emissions from California’s agriculture sector.
California rice grower Tom Butler is dry seeding his crop to reduce irrigation and draining the fields earlier than before when preparing for harvest. These new practices conserve water and may help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from his farm, according to an article by UC Davis science writer Brad Hooker. The story was picked up by Western Farm Press.

Butler is participating in a pilot program funded by the Environmental Defense Fund. Though it’s too early to measure, he has seen promising signs from the project.

“We’ve had good results with yield and water conservation, which really was our goal,” says Butler. “We’re happy that greenhouse gases go down as a result of that, but they weren’t the initial reason why we do that.”

Of the global GHG accumulation for all sectors, 0.001 percent comes from California rice fields, according to data compiled by Luis Espino, UC Cooperative Extension rice farm advisor for Colusa County.

“It’s such a new issue I don’t think much has been done in that area,” says Espino. “Right now UC Davis is doing the research, doing the modeling, trying to understand what goes on in the soil.”

Cass Mutters, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Butte County, noted that California rice growers realize that being environmentally sensitive is part of their responsibility. Since the 1980s, changes in irrigation management and other practices have led to a 98 percent reduction in pesticide residues entering public waterways from rice fields. Along with water quality, the rice industry supports an air quality monitoring network that enables the Air Resources Board to model how many acres can be burned without exceeding federal air quality standards.

Posted on Monday, January 7, 2013 at 2:40 PM

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