WASHINGTON (PRNewswire-USNewswire) — The Organic Center is pleased to announce that a research team it is collaborating with has been awarded an important research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to advance organic rice production in the United States. The grant is funded by USDA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).
The grant – worth $555,000 – will help increase organic rice production in the southern regions of the U.S. through the development of economically viable organic practices. The grant, which was officially announced on Tuesday by the USDA, will go to researchers at Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center at Beaumont, Texas A&M University's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, USDA's ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Department of Agriculture, and The Organic Center.
The Center's role in the project will be to communicate the findings of the research to the scientific community, organic growers and organic industry members.
"We are thrilled to be involved with this important project," said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center. "There is a critical need for information on organic rice systems to help expand production and meet the demand of this high-value market."
Organic rice practices tailored for the Southern U.S.
This first phase of a three-year project will develop a multi-disciplinary approach to developing Integrated Pest Management strategies for organic rice production in the Southern United States. The popularity of organic rice has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. Organic rice acreage in the U.S. has increased almost six-fold since 1995, with up to half of the acreage in the South. Despite this rapid expansion, however, domestic rice production has not kept up with market demand, and imports of foreign organic rice have risen.
One of the reasons why organic rice acreage is not expanding more rapidly is a lack of knowledge about tools that best support organic rice production. Rice is grown in a unique flooded system, and research being done specific to rice systems focuses solely on conventional production.
This project will address these issues by developing economically viable organic rice production practices for the Southern U.S. that will allow producers to grow organic rice more sustainably and profitably in the South.
This regional integrated organic rice project involves nine researchers from two of the country's major rice-growing states – Texas and Arkansas–and combines expertise in plant pathology (Dr. Xin-Gen [Shane] Zhou of Texas A&M ), breeding/genetics (Dr. Anna McClung of USDA's Agricultural Research Service), nutrient management (Dr. Fugen Dou of Texas A&M), economics (Dr. Bradley Watkins of the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville), weed science (Dr. Muthu Bagavathiannan of Texas A&M), entomology (Dr. Mo Way of Texas A&M ), agronomy/crop science (Dr. Bihu Huang of University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff), agronomy/soil science (Dr. Sixte Ntamatungiro of University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff), and outreach communications (Dr. Shade of The Organic Center). Overall, the research team will devote approximately 80% of their time on research and 20% on extension.
"Results from this project will empower growers to make informed choices on inputs that will result in sound pest management, higher and more consistent yields, improved milling and grain quality, and enhanced soil quality," said Todd Linsky, chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Organic Center. "This will help the market for domestically produced organic rice to continue to expand, and will sustain rural communities in areas where conventional rice acreage has been decreasing."
The Organic Center at work
In addition to the rice project, The Center now is collaborating in several other critical research projects, including the comparison of soil health on organic and conventional farms and seeking organic solutions to citrus greening. Earlier this year, it released an important report on the benefit of organic farming practices to pollinator populations.
The news of the grant award came the week after members of The Organic Center's Board of Trustees gathered at the University of California, Berkeley, for the group's annual retreat to receive scientific briefings on the collaborative research The Center is a part of and to discuss future research priorities of The Center.
For more information on The Organic Center and the science behind organic food and farming, visit www.organic-center.org.
The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.