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Houston-based RiceTec has partnered with Crop Protection Services to contribute $75,000 to a conservation project led by University of Arkansas soil scientist Trent Roberts.
The contribution fulfilled a matching grant total of $150,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for Roberts’ research, which will look at the benefits of cover crops for rice producers.
Dubbed “Healthy Soils, Happy Rice,” the project is examining Austrian winter peas as a cover crop. The hardy, vine-like legume uses naturally occurring soil bacteria to fix nitrogen in their roots and plant tissue.
When farmers prepare the soil for spring planting, the nitrogen is then deposited from the peas’ root system back into the soil, improving rice fertility.
CPS and RiceTec had agreed in May to make the matching pledge but it wasn’t until early December that NRCS awarded Roberts the Conservation Innovation Grant.
“RiceTec is pleased to support research that seeks more sustainable rice production technologies,” said Brian Ottis, RiceTec global solutions development lead. “Efforts like this fit perfectly with our Smart Rice program, which combines sustainable crop production practices with our high-yielding hybrids to produce the most earth-friendly rice available.”
Randy Ouzts, U.S. rice manager at CPS, agreed.
“CPS is very happy to support the Arkansas rice industry, as rice is a key crop to our business and this program is something we could truly get behind. As growers look for new ways to manage farming operations we’re pleased to partner with RiceTec and Dr. Roberts’ research.”
Roberts has already planted the cover crop in a field on a farm owned by Fred Schmidt of Lawrence County, Ark.
Once the ground dries out from recent rains, he plans to plant additional fields on farms belonging to Sloan Hampton in Arkansas County and Wes McNulty in Jefferson County, Ark.
“The nitrogen fixation from the cover crop’s biomass can reduce the required N rates by as much as 60 pounds per acre,” Roberts said. “That can equal a significant savings in the cost of fertilizer.”
Roberts’ research will not only test nitrogen levels in the soil using the Nitrogen Soil Test for Rice but will also monitor diseases and insect pests in the demonstration fields and measure yields from the rice crops planted in them next year.
Read more about Roberts’ project at the University of Arkansas.