Alternative management of rice straw – a position paper for the rice industry

AgriFutures Australia - Wendy C Quayle

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

The report provides an overview of the plethora of alternative new and emerging technologies and options for rice straw management.

What is the problem?

Rice straw management is a major challenge in Australia.

Currently, there are limited options for its use and due to its great abundance, low nutritional value and low density, most of it is currently burnt in fields soon after harvest. This is an efficient and economical way for farmers to manage the straw, sterilising the soil of weeds and pests and providing a good time to sow a following winter crop whilst exploiting any residual soil moisture left over from the preceding rice crop.

The report provides an overview of alternative options for rice straw other than open field burning, taking into account cost benefits for farmers and the industry and being cognisant of life cycle assessment. It presents agricultural producers and agro-industry with potential ways of creating value from low value rice straw in a sustainable way that may fit with farm operations. The key findings of the report are that there are a multitude of different options for rice straw that exist at two levels: single enterprise and industry.

What did the research involve?

The project used CSIRO library resources and the internet to conduct a literature review of peer-reviewed journals, conference papers, grey literature and consultant reports. A workshop was held to generate dialogue between a range of industry, growers, private entrepreneurs and academic stakeholders. Recommendations for alternative options from farmer individuals were sought. Life cycle assessment and economic analysis was not an objective of the project; however, the project has been cognisant of these aspects throughout the discussion.

What were the key findings?

The large quantities of rice straw produced every year, its low density, relatively expensive handling and transportation costs and the negative effects of field burning on the environment and human health are the primary factors driving efforts to find other solutions for rice straw management. The impacts of straw removal (nutrients, micronutrients, carbon) from fields on an ongoing basis was also considered.

There are two main categories for addressing the problem: industry-wide solutions and on-farm solutions and the topics covered include:

  • Air pollution potential of rice burning
  • Burning compared with straw removal and retention
  • Potential uses of rice straw
  • Bioenergy – centralised facilities
  • Bioenergy – on farm
  • Biorefining
  • Chemicals
  • Silicon nanoparticles
  • Biochar
  • Fibreboard
  • Rice straw for animal feed

Final comment

The report recommends that the rice industry connects and engages where possible to other research projects nationally and internationally.

2016 - Australia - AgriFutures Australia - Wendy C Quayle
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About the Organisation

Name: AgriFutures Australia
Email: belinda.allitt@agrifutures.com.au

AgriFutures Australia is a new beginning for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. We are an organisation that proudly focuses on the future of Australian agriculture. We live and work in the regions and represent the interests and aspirations of farmers and rural communities.

Our vision is to grow the long-term prosperity of Australian rural industries. In practical terms, this means:

Initiatives that attract capable people into careers in agriculture, build the capability of future rural leaders, and support change makers and thought leaders.
Research and analysis to understand and address important issues on the horizon for Australian agriculture.
Research and development for established industries that do not have their own Research & Development Corporation (RDC), including the Rice, Chicken Meat, Honey Bee and Pollination, Thoroughbred Horse, Pasture Seeds, Export Fodder, Ginger and Tea Tree Oil industries.
Research and development to accelerate the establishment and expansion of new rural industries, such as Deer, Buffalo, Kangaroo and Camel Milk.

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