Comparative Economic and Environmental Assessments of Furrow- and Flood-Irrigated Rice Production Systems
36 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2022
Rice producers in the Mid-South of the United States face decreasing groundwater availability and increasing pumping depths which may jeopardize sustainable rice production. Recently, producers have started adopting furrow irrigated rice (FIR) which reduces irrigation requirements by approximately 17% compared to conventionally flooded rice (CIR). Although driven by water savings and ease of planting and harvesting, as FIR does not require levies to be built, there are both yield (quantity) and milling (quality) concerns with FIR production. While some view FIR as a more sustainable production practice because of its reduced water usage, a comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) has not been conducted to compare the two production systems. This study compares the economic (yield differences, NPV of water conserved and milling discounts/premiums) and environmental (a stepwise LCA which monetizes the holistic environmental of CIR and FIR on a per kg of rice basis) differences between CIR and FIR. Profitability results indicate that CIR more profitable and LCA results show that CIR is more environmentally sustainable. These results present a Gordian knot for policy makers and rice stakeholders alike as they struggle between a production practice that has a lower environmental impact (CIR) versus one that conserves water, reduces soil disturbance, and offers more flexibility to respond to market and weather conditions (FIR). Water savings has historically been a key focus of rice production from an environmental sustainability standpoint. Our research indicates that failure to both recognize and quantify holistic environmental metrics besides water savings may provide misleading recommendations.
Keywords: rice, LCA, Furrow-irrigation
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