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    AgFax Rice Review: Drought Hammers Cali. Crop; Surface Ozone Reduces Yields

    Production

    • Terence Chea of the Associated Press reports for ABC News that California rice growers planted 25% fewer acres than normal due to water restrictions from the ongoing drought. If the drought continues for another year, the impacts are expected to be devastating for both the state’s farmers and wildlife,. With less rice acres planted and less water available there will be far fewer acres flooded after harvest, a practice that helps to break down rice stalks while also serve as wetland habitats that support migratory shore birds. Normally an estimated 300,000 acres are flooded over the winter to provide these habitats, but this year it is expected a scant 50,000 acres will be flooded with a likely increase in disease and other health risks among over crowded fields.
    • Oryza.com reports that surface ozone, produced when nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds react with solar radiation, has been shown to have serious negative impacts on yields for a number of major crops, including rice. Yield losses of 1-3% were recorded in a recent study in India’s major rice growing areas. The gases that cause surface ozone are typically found in greater concentration in more industrialized areas, and climate change can heighten the impacts on crop yields.

    EARLIER IN THE WEEK

    Research

    • Kate Yandell reports for The-Scientist.com that a new research study has discovered a transport protein in rice plants that captures arsenic and sequesters it in cellular waste containers called vacuoles, preventing it from building up in the plant’s grains or causing damage to plant cells. The finding presents a new method to combat the problem of arsenic in rice by either breeding or genetically engineering rice varieties that produce more of these transporter proteins suited for growth in areas with high arsenic concentrations. Further research will be needed to determine if producing higher levels of the transport protein can further increase the amount of arsenic captured.
    • Le Nguyet Minh reports for Oxfam America that the 4th International Rice Congress will be held in Bangkok this week. However while the Congress is “meant to ensure sustainable, equitable growth of “rice for the world,”” Minh feels the focus is too much on the latest technological advances and conventional growing, practices that may benefit mass producers but have little impact on poor, small scale growers. Minh advocates “investments that acknowledge their limited assets, help them adapt to the challenges of climate change, and tap into and enhance their knowledge,” noting particularly the System of Rice Intensification which has benefited over 10 million farmers but has received little support or research from the global rice community.

    Markets/Trade

    • Harumi Ozawa reports for The Japan Times that after centuries of reverence and tradition in rice production Japan’s rice sector is finally becoming modernized. Older, small scale farmers using traditional planting practices and protected by government policies are being replaced by large scale farms utilizing the latest technology and recommended practices. With few young people interested in farming many retiring farmers have no one in the family to pass their land to, but don’t wish to sell and so end up providing their land for large-scale, full time farmers to cultivate.
    • Oryza.com reports that Asia’s major rice producers face decreased crop yields and increased risks of natural disasters such as floods and drought due to climate change. Since rice is a major staple for the region, reduced production would lead to increased food prices and costs of living.
    • Oryza.com reports that exporters’ claims of pesticide residue found on Indian basmati rice have been shown unfounded by laboratory tests conducted by Punjab Agricultural University. Additionally, the U.S. EPA has relaxed the import tolerance limits of tricylclazole fungicide for Indian basmati rice, leading to a 13% increase in U.S. basmati imports over last year.



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