MSU: Rice farmers can get same yield with one-third less water

Alternate wetting and drying is a management technique in rice that research has shown cuts water use by up to one-third while maintaining yields. This rice was growing in a dry paddy in Stoneville, Mississippi on Aug. 1, 2015. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Lee Atwill)

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi State University researchers say that some rice farmers can use much less water and get the same yield by flooding their fields at the start and end of the season, and letting them dry out a bit in between.

Irrigation specialist Jason Krutz says that’s a radical change from recommendations across the Rice Belt to keep two to four inches of water in the fields. Instead, he recommends letting fields dry until water is 4 inches below the soil surface, then re-flooding them.

He says that can cut water use 30 percent without hurting yield.

Krutz says MSU’s tests were on high-clay soils, which probably make up about half of Mississippi rice fields.

He says he believes Arkansas researchers will study its use in silt-loam soils like those in Arkansas and south Louisiana.


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