Rice production best management practices

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    In Louisiana we are blessed with beautiful andabundant waters to enjoy fishing, hunting, boating or justrelaxing on the shore of a lake, river or bayou. Most ofthe water in Louisianas rivers and lakes comes fromrainfall runoff. As this runoff travels across the soil sur-face, it carries with it soil particles, organic matter andnutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Agriculturalactivities contribute to the amount of these materialsentering streams, lakes, estuaries and groundwater. Inaddition to assuring an abundant, affordable food supply,Louisiana farmers must strive to protect the environ-ment.

    Research and educational programs on environ-mental issues related to the use and management ofnatural resources have always been an important part ofthe LSU AgCenters mission. Working with representa-tives from the agricultural commodity groups, the Natu-ral Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Louisi-ana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), theLouisiana Farm Bureau Federation (LFBF) and the Loui-siana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF),the LSU AgCenter has taken the lead in assembling agroup of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for eachagricultural commodity in Louisiana.

    BMPs are used by agricultural producers tocontrol the generation or delivery of pollutants fromagricultural activities to water resources of the state,thereby preventing degradation of surface and ground-water.


    Introduction ......................... 3

    Site Selection ....................... 4

    Sediment Management inSurface Water ..................... 5

    Pesticide Management andPesticides ............................ 14

    Nutrient Management ..... 19

    General Farm BMPs ......... 25

  • riceBMPs


    Rice is one of the mostimportant crops produced inLouisiana with regard to bothtotal acreage grown and for itseconomic value. Production hasexpanded from the traditionalrice-producing area of southwest-ern Louisiana to other areas ofLouisiana, especially the north-eastern portion. Rice acreage hasfluctuated in Louisiana in recentyears from a high of 620,000acres in 1994 to a low of 518,000acres in 1991. Much of thisfluctuation has been caused byfarm policy programs and worldmarket economics that directlyaffect the price received byLouisiana producers.

    The loss of soil, plantnutrients and crop protectionproducts, such as pesticides,from cropland has been identi-fied as a significant environmen-tal problem. This guide describesthe conservation measures or

    Best Management Practices(BMPs) for rice productionimplemented primarily for thepurpose of conserving andprotecting soil and water re-sources by controlling the move-ment of potential agriculturalpollutants into surface andgroundwater. They may, however,in addition to protecting theenvironment in many cases,enhance yields, wildlife habitats,improve overall production andprovide for sustainability of soilproductivity and a continuedsupply of water of suitablequality.

    References are made tospecific Natural ResourcesConservation Service (NRCS)production codes, which areexplained in the text of thisdocument. More detailed infor-mation about these practices canbe found in the NRCS FieldOffice Technical Guide (FOTG).

    The FOTG can be found in allSoil and Water Conservationdistrict offices and all NRCSfield offices or on the NRCS webpage. These BMPs also aredescribed in the Rice ProductionHandbook published by the LSUAgricultural Center. Additionally,under voluntary participation bythe producer, technical assistanceto develop and implement afarm-specific conservation planis available through the Conser-vation Districts, NRCS fieldoffices and LSU AgCenter parishoffices.

    The potential for degrada-tion of surface waters is greatestfollowing land preparation, landleveling and conventional waterplanting. Measures to reduce thepotential adverse effects of theseactivities on surface waters arediscussed in detail.


  • Because rice is grown underflooded conditions, it is bestproduced on land that is nearlylevel, minimizing the number ofwater-retaining barriers or leveesrequired. Some slope is requiredto facilitate adequate drainage.Generally slopes of less than 1percent are necessary for ad-equate water management. Mostof Louisianas rice-growing areasare well suited for rice produc-tion with a minimum of landforming. Recent innovationsusing laser systems have madeprecision leveled or graded fieldsphysically and economicallyfeasible (NRCS code 462).

    Precision grading of fieldsto a slope of 0.2 foot or lesschange in elevation betweenlevees is important in rice pro-duction for the following rea-sons:

    1. permits uniform flood depth2. may eliminate a large number

    of levees3. facilitates rapid irrigation and

    drainage4. can lead to the use of straight,

    parallel levees that willincrease machine efficiency

    5. eliminates knolls and potholesthat may cause delay offlood or less than optimumweed control

    6. reduces the total amount ofwater necessary for irrigation



    Precision landleveling

    Parallel levees



    Field PreparationThe following are soil and

    water management practices touse to reduce the amount ofsediment leaving the rice field inthe irrigation water, therebyreducing soil loss from the fields(NRCS code 746). The methodsused on your farm will depend onweather conditions, level of redrice infestation, soil type androtational crops.

    In fields that require waterleveling in the spring, the irriga-tion water will be retained in thefield to allow for the suspendedsediment to settle before release.The Suspended Sediment Test

    Kit developed by the LSUAgCenter or other approvedmethods of measuring suspendedsediment will be used to timeplanting and water release tominimize soil loss. These kits areavailable at your parish LSUAgCenter Extension Serviceoffice.

    The kits are very simple touse. A sample of the floodwateris taken 24 hours after waterleveling. Take the sample fromseveral places in the field andplace in a bucket. Next, put asample from the bucket into thetest kit bottle. Add a pinch ofalum (provided in the kit) to thesample in the test bottle, andshake the bottle to mix the alumwith the water. Then place thebottle where it will not be dis-turbed for 24 hours. The sus-pended sediment will settle to thebottom of the bottle. After 24hours, measure the depth of thesediment in the bottle. This is thestarting measurement. Additionalsamples are then taken at two- orthree-day intervals, using thesame procedure. The goal is toreduce the amount of suspendedsediment by at least 50 percentbefore releasing the floodwater.For most rice growers, this meansholding the floodwater for aboutseven to 14 days. By using thekits, the rice grower can timeplanting and water release tominimize soil loss.

    In fields that need extensivewater leveling, the work shouldbe done in the fall and the waterheld as described above to allowfor settling. Water may be heldduring the winter if desired(NRCS code 644). Holding thewater over the winter also willcreate additional wetland habitatfor waterfowl, furbearers andother wildlife.

    Water needed for eachirrigation application shall beapplied in the most efficientmanner (NRCS code 449). Waterwill be applied at a rate and insuch a manner that it will notcause excessive soil and waterloss. Installation of Structures forWater Control (NRCS code 587)and Grade Stabilization Struc-tures (NRCS code 410) willfacilitate water application andrelease. Grade stabilizationstructures (such as pipe drops orother approved devices) will beinstalled and maintained toreduce erosion.



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    Using thesuspendedsedimenttest kit

    Efficient application of floodwater

  • Irrigation Land Leveling(NRCS Code 464)The reshaping of the surface of the land that is tobe irrigated to planned grades. The purpose is toallow for efficient application of irrigation waterwithout causing erosion, loss of water quality ordamage to land by waterlogging and at the sametime to provide for adequate surface drainage.

    Land Smoothing(NRCS Code 466)The removing of irregularities on the land surfaceby use of special equipment. This improvessurface drainage, provides for more effective useof precipitation, obtains more uniform plantingdepths, provides for more uniform cultivation,improves equipment operation and efficiency,improves terrace alignment and facilitates con-tour cultivation.

    Regulating Water in Drainage System(NRCS Code 554)Controlling the removal of surface runoff, primarily through theoperation of water control structures. It is designed to conservesurface water by controlling the outflow from drainage systems.

    Surface Drainage - Field Ditch(NRCS Code 607)A graded ditch for collecting excess water in a field or forirrigation water drainage. This practice intercepts or collectssurface water and carries it to an outlet.


    Precision Land Forming(NRCS Code 462)Reshaping the surface of the land to planned grades. It improves surface drainage, provides formore effective use of rainfall, facilitates the installation of more workable drainage systems,reduces the incidence of mosquito infestation, controls erosion, improves water quality and pre-vents damage to land by waterlogging.




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