Monday, December 17, 2012

USA Rice Conference | by Kelly Downing

Last week was the USA Rice Conference, held this year in San Diego, CA. The turnout was good; it seems San Diego in December is tough to turn down. The weather was great and there was a lot of good information presented. I was happy to be there, and I hope you got the chance to stop by our booth or hear our brief presentation at the Monday morning breakfast session. Unfortunately, I had to leave after the morning presentation on Monday, due to a death in my family.

In case you missed it, I talked briefly about the challenges we faced in 2012, especially with the weather extremes that occurred in North America. I also reported on some of the results our cooperators got. Specifically, one thing that was very helpful was having flooded fields immediately adjacent to pivot fields in all three locations, and we installed flow meters on all the pumps. This allowed us to compare water use between flood and pivot.

Dennis Robison again got good yields, and this year we were able to demonstrate his water savings. His pivot rice yielded the same as his flooded rice, but he only used about 60% of the water. Chad Price achieved 80% of flooded yields, but used about 50% of the water. Jeremy Baltz got 74% of the yield and used only 30% of the water. These results are not what we want (except for Dennis, of course)—we prefer to use a little more water and get higher yields. However, it is good to reinforce what we have seen in other settings.

I also talked briefly about the recent hubbub regarding arsenic in rice. As I mentioned, we sincerely believe that rice grown in the U.S. is absolutely safe to eat. The research study published last spring ( indicated quite emphatically that rice grown under sprinklers has greatly reduced arsenic content, as compared to flooded rice. Much more research is needed, of course, but this is certainly a topic of interest.

As we see how this develops, perhaps a niche market will arise, where pivot-grown rice shows a price premium due to consumer preference. One of our cooperators, Campbell Coxe of Carolina Plantation Rice, is vertically integrated. He grows, processes, packages, and sells his own rice, and he has segregated the pivot rice he grew in 2011 (he only had one pivot, so rotated out of rice on that field this year). It will be interesting to see if this opens any new marketing doors.

Regardless of where all this goes, our focus remains: we want to help producers grow more crops, more profitably, while conserving resources. In the case of rice, we simply want to make sure everyone understands that this is a legitimate, profitable practice. It is not for everyone, but it might be for you—who knows? Regardless of your position, I hope you have a wonderful, blessed Christmas season and a great year in 2013.

Let’s talk again soon.