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Clemson aims to boost organic rice production in S.C. | Agriculture

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A Clemson University-led mission aimed toward reviving South Carolina’s rice business has nabbed a federal grant to additional its efforts.

Given the acronym iCORP — Increasing Coastal Organic Rice Production in South Carolina Using Salt Tolerant Cultivars — it tackles many points concerning the surroundings and agriculture that researchers imagine it might change into a mannequin analysis mission for local weather resilience in agriculture.

“The potential of this moving forward is tremendous … because if you can do it with one crop, you can do it with other crops. You’re talking about salt tolerance and climate change. If you’ve been able to impact the world’s food supply on that kind of level, that’s Nobel Peace Prize-type stuff,” mentioned Clemson Assistant Professor and Organic Vegetable Specialist Brian Ward.

The grant is a part of the federal Organic Transitions Program funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which focuses on supporting the event and implementation of analysis, extension and better education schemes to enhance the competitiveness of organic crop producers and those that are adopting organic practices.

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South Carolina’s premier rice cultivar, “Carolina Gold,” is salt-sensitive. It has been a staple of the meals and culinary methods of Charleston courting again to colonial days and antebellum days — all through the current. But for a protracted time period after the Civil War, Carolina Gold rice production dwindled down to nothing.


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Now a lot of the land on which the crop was initially grown has succumbed to saltwater intrusion. In Beaufort and Savannah, saltwater is being drawn into aquifers as freshwater is pumped out. This “plume” of salt is drawn into the aquifer as freshwater is eliminated.

“It’s only a matter of time before that plume stretches all the way up to Charleston and further up the coast as we continue tapping into the aquifers and gathering water that has to be replaced by something, and the closest thing is water from the estuary that has a major salt component to it,” Ward mentioned.

That land then turns into marginal land, which isn’t essentially match for agriculture however slightly turns into marsh or wetland — roughly 200,000 acres in South Carolina.

The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation (CGRF) has been a driving pressure in reviving the traditional substances of Southern meals, crops deserted in the twentieth century when productiveness and illness resistance mattered greater than taste and vitamin in agriculture. But with technological advances, lately Carolina Gold rice is a typical for the regional culinary world.

“Soil science and organic agriculture is very important, because you can’t grow these old, heirloom grain varieties using modern, conventional, chemical-supplementation methods,” CGRF Chair David Shields mentioned. “Organic cultivation, which is much more adjusted to the growing profiles of particular plants, is the best way to cultivate these heirloom varieties.”

That is as a result of organic rice grown in salt-affected soils could have the potential for much less weed infestations and thus will want much less hand-weeding — lowering labor prices and, in flip, rising growers’ profitability.

Marginal lands inundated with saltwater that might in any other case not be used for organic production — in addition to any meals crop production — could possibly be planted with salt-tolerant rice, rising the acreage and production of organic agricultural commodities in South Carolina.

“We’re talking tens of thousands of acres is what we’d like to see in the future,” Ward mentioned. “So a complete restoration of the rice industry in South Carolina is what I’d like to say. But baby steps first — we’ve got to prove that that we can do this.”

Clemson Assistant Professor of Vegetable Weed Science Matthew Cutulle, Associate Professor of Agribusiness Michael Vassalos, Professor of Water Quality and Treatment Sarah White, Professor and Newman Endowed Chair of Natural Resources Engineering R. Karthikeyan, and Research Agronomist Jai Rohila at Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center (DBNRRC), Stuttgart, Arkansas, are a part of the analysis staff.

“We may also be able to help rehabilitate the health of soils within these lands using salt tolerant rice cultivars so that other heirloom crops could be grown,” White mentioned.

The AFRI Foundational and Applied Science Program is a part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which offers management and funding for packages that advance organic and standard agriculture-related sciences by investing in and supporting initiatives that make sure the long-term viability of agriculture.

The greenhouse research will probably be carried out on each Clemson’s most important campus and at its Coastal Research and Education Center (REC) in Charleston. Additional subject trials will probably be carried out on the Coastal REC and in growers’ fields. The total aim of the mission will not be solely to enhance organic rice production in coastal South Carolina on salt-impacted lands, but in addition to make a constructive financial affect on the state’s organic rice business. The analysis is to be performed over 4 years from October 2021 to September 2025.

This Clemson-led analysis and extension mission in collaboration with DBNRRC will element cultivation practices and economics of rising rice in salt affected coastal areas, enabling growers to make knowledgeable selections. And finally, new cultivars would broaden acreage underneath organic rice production, whereas guaranteeing the financial stability of producers and enhancing ecosystem providers.


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“We just have to overcome the hurdles involved in growing rice in coastal areas, including salt tolerance,” Ward mentioned. “We want to basically be able to create a gradient of rice that can tolerate salt at different levels and produce a different experience of culinary enjoyment, as well as productivity for growers.”