http://www.usarice.com/riceinfo/ecology.htm -- Lawrence F. London, Jr. mailto:london@sunSITE.unc.edu http://sunSITE.unc.edu/InterGardenTitle: USA Rice Info- Farm ecology
Rice Farmers put to good use soils that may otherwise be unsuitable for farming. Heavy clay soils that hold water, a difficult environment for some crops, are perfectly suited for rice.
As rice grows to maturity, the flooded fields serve as holding ponds, aerating the water while sunlight and time breakdown the possible presence of chemicals. This natural phenomenon often returns water to the environment purer than when it was first drawn into the fields. The ponds also prevent soil erosion from rain run off or the blowing away of dry soil. Some farmers have begun to employ new recirculating irrigation systems and automated shutoff valves that conserve up to two-thirds the water requirements of 30 years ago.
After harvest, the fields are covered with a carpet of rice straw, a seemingly useless residue. Today researchers are finding new uses for the straw, including soil incorporation techiniques, uses in building materials and mulches, and as a resource for energy. While creating the proper conditions for rice straw decomposition, the winter flooding of rice fields has become a vital sanctuary and food source to migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. Rice growers are cooperating with conservation groups and government agencies to farm in ways that compensate for the loss of natural foods, no longer found in sufficient quantities to sustain healthy waterfowl populations. The abundant supply of rice, insects and roots provided by rice fields is proving to enhance these populations.
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