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Ecological Agriculture Application with Winter Flooding
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2019 Authors: Firth A., Baker B., Brooks J., Davis J.B., Iglay R., Smith R.

Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world's population and has the ability to support more people per unit of land area than wheat or corn, as rice produces more food energy and protein per hectare than other grain crops. However, with the human population projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, there are major concerns about the sustainability of rice production practices because of its major contribution to water pollution and soil degradation. Thus, there is a need to identify sustainable production practices that minimize environmental damage, while also remain economically feasible. This study investigated a potentially sustainable rice production system in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) that uses ecological principles to enhance environmental quality and economic gain at the field scale. It was hypothesized that the annual flooding of rice fields to create water bird habitat would benefit soil health, and in turn water runoff, providing agronomic benefits to the farmer alongside environmental benefits. Two rice farms were selected that applied different management regimes during the winter: conventional fallow fields and winter flooding. Soil microbial diversity and nutrient content were quantified and compared for a measure of overall soil health. Measured soil health variables linked flooded fields and high bird activity with more nutrient and microbial activity. Evidence from the investigation provided justification for future research, to develop a framework for other producers within the MAV to adopt similar management methods, ultimately improving the overall integrity of soil, water, and environmental quality as well as the farmer lifestyle.

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