Rice growers who last season participated in a pilot partnership formed by Anheuser-Busch and Indigo Ag were able to significantly reduce water use, nitrogen applications and greenhouse gas emissions.
As a result, the two companies have decided to expand the program this season to 2.7 million bushels of rice from 2.2 million bushels in 2019, according to a news release. Put in perspective, the Anheuser-Busch plant in Jonesboro, Arkansas, uses 2.6 million bushels of rice daily.
During the 2019 season on 11,000 acres, participating growers:
• Reduced water use an average of 23.7% compared to historical averages. One of the conservation practices employed — alternate wetting and drying, or AWD, along with multiple-inlet irrigation — has been shown to cut water use by up to an average of 30%, according to Mississippi State University research.
• Reduced nitrogen applications by 13.3%.
• Reduced average emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, by 26.6%. A three-year study conducted by the University of Arkansas and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service found roughly a 64.5% reduction in methane emissions using AWD compared to continuous flood.
Season 1 participants saw up to an estimated $27 per-acre improvement in profitability based on reduced input costs and a price premium for the identity preserved grain, according to the release.
Second phase — 2020
In the second phase, Indigo will also experiment with advanced data collection methods and remote-sensing technology such as drones, water sensors, and a mobile app to automate and enhance the project’s data collection efforts.
Enrolling in the program requires growers implement new practices that reduce nitrogen, water and methane emissions by at least 10% each. They can use Indigo’s proprietary microbial technology and data-driven agronomic support to meet these sustainability requirements.
The partnership helps Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s largest end-user of rice, move toward its 2025 sustainability goals.
• Renewable electricity and carbon reduction: 100% of purchased electricity will come from renewable sources and CO2 emissions across the value chain will be reduced by 25%.
• Water stewardship: 100% of facilities will be engaged in water efficiency efforts and 100% of communities in high stress areas will have measurably improved water availability and quality.
• Smart agriculture: 100% of direct farmers will be highly skilled, connected and financially empowered.
• Circular packaging: 100% of packaging will be made from majority recycled content or will be returnable.