University of California

Long-term studies find benefits, challenges in alternative rice straw management


Jeffrey A. Bird
Alison J. Eagle
William R. Horwath
Mike W. Hair
Eric E. Zilbert
Chris van Kessel

Authors Affiliations

J.A. Bird is Post Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley; A.J. Eagle is Staff Research Associate, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Kearney Agricultural Center; W.R. Horwath is Associate Professor, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis; M. W. Hair is Post Graduate Researcher, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis and UCCE; E.E. Zilbert is Assistant Research Agronomist; C. van Kessel is Professor and Chair, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis. The California Energy Commission Farm Energy Assistance Program, Ducks Unlimited and the California Rice Research Board funded this research. We would like to acknowledge the generous contributions made by Canal Farms, Steve Dennis, Steve Scardaci, Marian Llagas, Bruce Linquist, Sylvie Brouder, Jim Hill and the UC DANR Analytical Laboratory.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 56(2):69-75. DOI:10.3733/ca.v056n02p69. March 2002.

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California state legislation passed in 1991 mandated a phased reduction of rice straw burning in the Central Valley, to reduce air pollution. In 1993, UC Davis scientists launched an 8-year research project on the long-term effects of various alternative means of managing rice straw. Burning, incorporation into the soil, rolling, and baling and removing the straw were compared, with and without winter flooding. None of the various practices reduced grain yields on our experimental plots, but there was an increase in weeds when straw was incorporated, and in particular when the fields were not winter flooded. However, when straw is incorporated, nutrients are returned to the soil and less nitrogen fertilizer can be applied, resulting in lower production costs and less potential for water pollution. In addition, waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway benefit significantly from the wetlands created when fields are flooded during the winter.


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Bird J, Eagle A, Horwath W, Hair M, Zilbert E, van Kessel C. 2002. Long-term studies find benefits, challenges in alternative rice straw management. Hilgardia 56(2):69-75. DOI:10.3733/ca.v056n02p69
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