Improving Soil Quality to Increase Yield and Reduce Diseases in Organic Rice Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $225,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Fugen Dou
Texas A&M AgriLife Research

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: rice


  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, wetlands
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Demand for organically produced rice has been increasing with up to 50,000 acres now produced in the USA. Although acreage of conventional rice production has decreased in Texas by 36% during the last 15 years, it is now home to some 15,000 acres of organic rice which has brought new vitality to otherwise struggling rice farmers. In addition, organic rice production in South Carolina is an emerging industry with local growers, mills, and marketing chain established. Because all rice in the USA is grown in flooded paddies, organic production practices developed for other systems are of little use. Our project will help to sustain this new industry through establishment of organic rice production practices that will increase economic returns to rural communities. The project addresses two SARE priorities: “Organic Farming” and “Environmentally Sound Practices” and integrates the use of cover crops, organic soil amendments, and choice of cultivar to improve soil quality, reduce disease losses and increase yield and milling quality. In previous independent studies to develop management practices for organic rice farming, we demonstrated: 1) ryegrass and clover had better performance than other winter cover crops in clay soil; 2) two organic soil amendments, Nature Safe and Rhizogen, significantly increased rice yield and milling quality over other organic fertilizers; 3) disease severity of straighthead, narrow brown leaf spot, and brown spot were significantly increased by some organic practices; and 4) there were significant differences in yield of organically produced rice cultivars. Information is lacking on the integrated effects of these organic rice production practices and their economic and ecological benefits. To accomplish this goal, we will quantify the effects of cover crop and organic soil amendments on rice yield, milling quality, and disease severity in integrated studies conducted on organic land in Texas and South Carolina. Ecological services will be determined including soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration, the impact of dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, and salinity on water quality. We will develop enterprise budgets that demonstrate best management practices for high economic return. We conducted a stakeholder survey to prioritize research goals and consulted with an established advisory committee involving growers, millers, consultants, and end-users to guide our research approach and delineate technology transfer programs needed to implement these organic rice systems. We have technology transfer outlets through established organic rice field days and county extension meetings that will be used to train farmers and extension agents and demonstrate enterprise budgets that will help in input decision making. We will create printed as well as web-based materials to educate landowners, farmers, government officials and natural resource management professionals on the use of these agro-systems for organic rice production and environmental conservation. Ultimately, development of an organic rice farming system using cover crops and organic soil amendments will improve soil quality, rice production, disease management, and ecological benefits, and thus, will enhance economic opportunities for organic rice producers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Quantify the combined effects of cover crop, organic soil amendments, and variety selection on rice yield, milling quality, and disease severity with field trials conducted on organic land in conjunction with an established stakeholder research and outreach advisory board.
    2) Determine ecological services (carbon sequestration, nitrogen retention, and water quality) provided by organic rice farming using the proposed integrated practices.
    3) Demonstrate economic viability of integrated organic rice management through the use of enterprise budgets. Provide information to farmers, researchers, county agents, natural resource managers, and regional public officials on the production potential, financial viability, and ecological impacts of organic rice cropping systems.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.