Protecting Waterfowl by Investing in 4Rs on Rice Farms

October 15, 2019

A rice field is not only for crops: it’s a habitat for North America’s waterfowl population and other at-risk species.

That’s why The Mosaic Company is supporting the Rice Stewardship Partnership, a partnership between Ducks Unlimited and USA Rice that focuses on optimizing water and nutrient management, energy efficiency, and wildlife habitat on U.S. rice farms.

Now in their sixth year of a partnership funded through a $1.35 million investment by The Mosaic Company Foundation, the coalition has reached over 390,000 rice acres — representing over 13% of all U.S. rice land.

Rice is the world’s most widely consumed grain, sustaining nearly half the global population. The U.S. has 2.95 million acres under rice production (USDA 2018), half of which is exported. Not only are U.S. producers an important source of this staple food for the world, but they are also stewards of wetlands used by North America’s waterfowl and 32 other at-risk species.

Most of the U.S. rice crop is grown in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, where the Mosaic partnership has focused their resources. Participating farms in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri receive training, knowledge, tools, and new practices that help reduce levels of crop nutrients lost to the Mississippi River.

Capturing crop nutrients and sediment that might otherwise enter rivers and lakes means better water quality, a healthier environment for wildlife, and minimized environmental impact.

This can be achieved by employing fertilizer management tactics from the fertilizer industry’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework. The concept is simple: apply the right source of nutrients, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. These 4R practices were implemented on 140,000 of the rice acres targeted by the partnership.

Additionally, 27,000 acres have been enrolled in Alternate Wetting and Drying practices resulting in: a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 4,500 cars from highways for a year; water savings equivalent to 9,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools; and significant improvements in water quality by utilizing best management practices.

The partnership has more in store yet, backed by over $89 million in additional funding from the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program and private funding with organizations and corporations. Over the next six years, coverage will expand to 770,000 acres of rice and rice-rotation land — which will bring the total benefitted U.S. rice acreage to 25%.

The end result is an increase in on-farm sustainability and profitability while protecting the environment and the wildlife that depend on it.

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