• By Lydia Holmes •
Dr. Michele Reba, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Department of Agricultural Agriculture Research Service, is the 2020 recipient of the USA Rice Sustainability Award. Reba was chosen for her leadership and innovative research around sustainable rice production.
Her specialties in civil engineering and hydrology make her unique in the rice research world. But what truly sets her apart is her ability to bring together university professors, ARS researchers, crop consultants and farmers to work on some of the most difficult research questions around water use in rice.
Her research, nearly all of which is conducted on farm in collaboration with producers, includes irrigation conservation, irrigation automation, rice straw management, edge-of-field monitoring of water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, and artificial recharge of the alluvial aquifer.
“We as an industry are blessed to have dedicated researchers like Dr. Reba willing to think out of the box to tackle the many challenges we face,” said Mike Sullivan, who farms near Burdette, Arkansas. “Her willingness to listen and know the heartbeat of the farmers she is working with in defining our problems and working toward solutions on a daily basis is invaluable. She has proven that we can take small plot research and replicate it over large fields to validate its value to the producer.”
Reba leads the Delta Water Management Research Unit located on campus at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The mission of the unit is to execute research related to agricultural water resources management at the plot, field, farm and watershed scales to further the knowledge base, evaluate technological solutions and inform crop production practices.
The USA Rice Sustainability Award was created in 2016 to recognize the efforts of all segments of the industry to not only conserve natural resources but to find innovative ways to address all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social sustainability.
A subcommittee of the USA Rice Sustainability Committee chooses the winner based on several criteria, including leadership in the industry and broader sustainability community, and a history of promoting and advancing sustainability through innovative practices.
This article originally appeared in USA Rice’s “The Daily.”