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CASE STUDY 11 Rice Production in California: The Lundberg Family Farms THE UNDBERG FAM BY FARMS is located in northern California in Richvale, Butte County, about 30 miles southeast of Chico. A family partnership owned by four brothers, the farm consists of 3,100 acres (Table 1~. The Lundbergs produce about 1,900 acres of rice each year using largely conven- tional methods that include the use of chemical fertilizers anci pesticides, but on the Lundberg Farms the level of pesticides used is somewhat less than the recommended amounts. Unlike many producers the Lundbergs' conventional production practices also involve disposal of rice straw by decomposition in the soil rather than burning. Besides their conventionally managed acreage, the Lundbergs also produce about 100 acres of rice w*h- out pesticides or chemical fertilizers as an experiment. They refer to this 100 acres as their organic rice because the methods that they use comply with the California organic farming law. They have been experimenting with the production of organic rice for 18 years. Rice is the only cash crop grown on the Lundberg Family Farms. Purple vetch (V*ia benghaZensis) is also grown as a green manure crop and nitrogen source on the experimental acreage. On the Lundberg Farms, as throughout northern California, rice production, both conventional and organic, is on flooded land. GENERAL DATA The unusual features of this farm are the extensive field experiment in a continuing effort to develop economically viable methods of producing rice without chemical pesticides and fertilizers; the incorporation of rice straw into the soil in lieu of burning, which is practiced in both conventional and organic production; and the extensive marketing system. 398
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS TABLE 1 Summary of Enterprise Data for the Lundberg Family Farms 399 Category Description Farm size 3,100 acres (100 acres experimental) Labor and Four Lundberg brothers operate the farm plus a large marketing management and processing operation. Extensive farm management input is practices provided by a salaried production manager, who also does all pest scouting for the rice acreage. The rice production operation employs 6.5 person-years of regular year-round labor. Seasonal workers are hired for 8 weeks in the spring and 6 weeks in the fall. Labor requirements are higher for the alternative rice operation than for the conventional one because of repeated irrigation and surface tillage practices used in fallow operations. Marketing strategies Rice from the 100 experimental acres is sold at a premium price (about 50 percent) through the farm's extensive marketing and processing operation (along with the output of several other growers) as organically grown. Most of the rice produced on the farm is processed or sold raw as ordinary rice. Weed control A 2-year rotation is used for experimental organic rice: the rice practices Insect and nematode control practices Disease control practices Soil fertility management crop in year 1 is followed by fall-sown vetch; year 2 has summer fallow and fall vetch. Repeated flooding and shallow tillage is used for weed control in the fallow year. Reduced rates of herbicide are applied on conventional rice fields. Tadpole shrimp (a crustacean) is controlled by irrigation on the experimental acres, alternating wet and dry fields. Nematodes are not a problem in inundated fields, and other pests are less problematic. The rice straw is rolled down, decomposing sclerotia of stem rot pathogens. The farmer says stem rot is not a serious problem. There is no other major rice disease. The farm uses a 2-year rotation, rice and vetch-fallow-vetch on the experimental acres. The nitrogen supply is considered inadequate, reducing yields. No other fertilizer is applied. A 3-year rotation (rice, rice, and vetch-fallow-vetch) and commercial fertilizer are used on the other acreage. Irrigation practices Rice fields are alternately flooded and drained to control tadpole shrimp until the rice stand is established. The depth of the inundation depends on the growth stage of the rice. Five acre- feet of water are used. Crop and livestock The experimental (nonchemical) rice yields 44 hundredweight yields versus the Lundbergs' 74 hundredweight/acre conventional average, or the 110 hundredweight/acre on the most productive farms in the county. Financial performance Experimental nonchemical rice is generally less profitable than conventionally produced rice despite premium price, due to insufficient nitrogen and lower yield. Premium prices for yields in organic rice would dissipate if production increased significantly.
400 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE The marketing enterprise of the Lundberg Family Farms is extensive, including a modern milling and processing plant employing up to 70 peo- ple. In addition to their own organically grown rice, the Lundbergs contract with 10 other growers in the local area who use methods in compliance with the state law governing organic farming. The Lundbergs are well known for their marketing and processing system through which they mar- ket not only organically produced rice but also conventionally grown rice from their farm and others in the area. Climate Normal precipitation at Orland, 30 miles northwest of the Lundberg farm, is about 20 inches per year (Table 2~. Two or more inches of precipitation fall each month during November through February; less than 1 inch of precip- *ation fans per month during May through September. Climatic conditions at Orland are a good approximation of those prevailing on the Lundberg Farms. The elevation at the farm is approximately 200 feet above sea level. PHYSICAL AND CAPITAL RESOURCES Soil The Lundberg Farms' soil is vertisol, largely of Stockton clay adobe, with some 40 to 45 percent of the area underlain by a calcareous cemented hardpan (D. Mikkelsen, interview, 1986~. The topsoil is natural, self-gener- ating soil that is high in phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and other nutri- ents. The land is quite flat; most fields required only moderate leveling prior to the advent of rice production and now need only a minimal finish leveling every few years. Buildings and Facilities Except for a machine shop, the main buildings and facilities on the farm- an extensive, modern milling and rice cake processing plant are associated with the postharvest operations. The milling and processing facilities in- clude rice storage bins, in which high levels of carbon dioxide can be maintained to prevent insect damage during storage; a rice drier; a cleaning mill; various sorting machines; a packaging plant; rice cake production machinery; and two warehouses. Farm Machinery The machine inventory on the farm, other than the processing and mar- keting equipment, consists of nine crawler tractors; four wheel tractors; three 90-horsepower wheel tractors; two 150-horsepower wheel tractors; three 60-foot land-planes; three disks with 30-inch blades, 20 feet long; two
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402 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE 32-foot chisel plows; a 22-foot cage roper; a 22-foot rubber wheel roller; a 15-foot tiller; six pickups; four 1.5-ton flatbed trucks; two diesel tractor- trailer rigs; and miscellaneous implements. Aerial planting and some har- vesting operations are custom hired, and a no-tiliage grain drill is rented, which accounts for the absence of such equipment in the machinery inven- tory. MANAGEMENT FEATUI?ES Rotations and Cultural Practices Rice is conventionally grown in northern California as a more or less continuous cash crop, with as many as 2 to 5 years of continuous rice in a given field, followed by 1 year of fallow for releveling (Wick, 19751. Some California rice fields have produced a rice crop in each of the past 30 to 50 years (D. Mikkelsen, interview, 1986~. Many farmers are now using a 3-year rotation of 2 years rice followed by 1 year fallow (Wick, interview, 1936), however, because of the federal price-support program requirement that 35 percent of a farm's rice allotment be idle. The experimental method currently used by the Lundbergs on the 100 acres grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers is a 2-year rotation that alternates rice with purple vetch and fallow. Following the rice harvest in October and November, the rice straw is spread and rolled onto the soil to expedite its decomposition. (The greater the contact of the straw with the soil, the more rapidly it will decompose.) One of two kinds of roller is used, depending on soil conditions. If the soil is compacted, the field is first chiseled; then a rubber-wheeled roller is used to mash down the straw. A steel cage roper is used, drawn by a crawler tractor, in cases in which the soil is soft enough so that the straw may be incorporated into the soil without prior chiseling. After the straw is rolled down in the fall, purple vetch seed is sown by airplane. In the Lundbergs' experimental system, unsprouted rice seed is planted, in contrast to conventional planting methods in which rice seed is soaked, partially sprouted for 24 hours, and then drained prior to seeding by air into flooded fields. Dry, unsprouted rice seed is used when drilling directly into dry soil because the tender growing points of the partially sprouted rice seed would be damaged by the mechanical action of a drill and germi- nation rates would be low. Using this method, the rice seed is drilled directly into the soil until the appropriate moisture is available for sprouting (based on moisture, temperature, and soil contact), at which point the field is "flushed" (rapidly and briefly irrigated). Following germination, and until the rice reaches a height of 2 to 4 inches, the Lundbergs allow the soil to become rather dry. When the rice begins to show stress from a lack of moisture, the field is flushed again. After the rice plants have become fully established (3 to 5 inches tall), the fields are
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 403 kept flooded until they are drained in preparation for harvest (3 to 4 weeks earlier) so that the soil dries out enough to support the harvest machinery. No crop is harvested from a field in a fallow year. Instead, purple vetch is planted in the fan following the rice harvest and again in the fan of the fallow year. The vetch normally grows rather slowly during the fan and becomes dormant during cold temperatures in winter, but bv April or Mav · _ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ _ ~ ~ · _ ma _ ~ J ~ J it has usually produced abundant foliage that makes an excellent green manure crop or mulch. In the spring of the fallow year, the vetch is flail- chopped and disked under, along with the largely decomposed rice straw. The field is then laser-leveled and alternately flushed and shaBow-tilled with an implement to control weeds. In some years, depending on weed populations, a fallow field may be treated with as many as three cycles of flooding and tillage. In the spring of the year in which rice is to be planted, the leguminous foliage is flail-chopped, along with the largely decomposecl rice straw, leav- ing a mulch on the soil. A heavy no-tilIage drip is then used to plant rice seed into this mulch. The drill leaves the soil bare above the narrow rows (about 3 inches apart) in which the rice seed is planted. The areas between the rice rows remain covered with the mulch, which helps control weeds. The rationale for these management practices is based on weed and pest control and improved soil fertility. The mulch is thought to inhibit weed seed germination and thus compensate for the disadvantage of dry seeding (the delayed emergence of the rice crop) as compared with the conventional practice. Seeding into mulch, followed by intermittent flooding in the early stages of rice growth and development, also breaks the life cycles of water pests, such as the seed midge, tadpole shrimp, and rice water weevil, which need continuous flooding to survive. The Lundbergs estimate that the vetch supplies about 120 to 130 pounds of nitrogen per acre. A University of California soil scientist, D. Mikkelsen, has estimated that the nitrogen supplied may actually be in the range of 60 to 120 pounds (interview, 1986~. Mikkelsen has also observed that the flail-chopped mulch of vetch "tends to float and is blown by the wind to the nearby levees" (correspondence, 1987~. This tendency may be an impediment to widespread adoption of this procedure. The alternative methods used by the Lundbergs have been evolving from year to year as their experimentation followed an orderly sequence of objec- tives. Until 1986, their objective had been to find an economical method of controlling weeds without the use of herbicides. Having attained this goal to their own satisfaction, they now recognize that the next important objec- tive is to enhance available nitrogen in the soil by methods other than the use of chemical fertilizers forbidden by the state's law on organic farming. Except for the 100 acres on which they produce rice without chemical pesticides and fertilizers, the Lundbergs use methods similar to those of conventional growers in their area, with two exceptions. One is that they have not burned rice straw since 1960; all of their straw is rolled down each
404 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE TABLE 3 Rice Yields on the Lundberg Family Farms' Experimental Organic Fields Compared With Other Sources (hundredweight/acre) Source 1985 1986 Lundberg organic 44.0 27.0 California statewide 73.5 76.0a Butte County Rice Growers Association 74.0 80.0a aThese figures are estimates. fall, and the largely decomposed residue is disked under in the spring prior to planting. The Lundbergs are not alone in this practice; rice straw decom- position is gradually becoming a more common cultural method in the Sacramento Valley rice production area. The second exception is that the Lundbergs seek to minimize their appli- cation of herbicicles. They ordinarily apply 3 pounds of molinate per acre, compared with the recommended rate of 4 pouncis per acre (Wick and Klonsky, 1984), or the common practice of 5 or more pounds per acre (G. Brewster, interview, 1986~. The legal limit is 9 pounds per acre it. Hill, correspondence, 19871. The Lundbergs fallow each rice field once every 3 to 5 years. During the first year after fallow, they find that they can sometimes omit the herbicide application entirely with no appreciable weed damage to the rice crop. The success of the fallow method of weed control varies from field to field, however, and with different weather conditions. In some years the weed populations are rather high, forcing a choice between reduced yields and herbicide application. On their experimental fields, the Lund- bergs take the lower yields; on their other fields, they apply a reduced rate of molinate and take yields comparable to those of other growers. The experimental method of rice production currently practiced by the Lundbergs has the advantages of breaking the reproductive cycle of various weeds and other pests and pathogens and dramatically reducing (to nil) the use of pesticides. It has the disadvantage of significantly Towering yields and economic returns, even in comparison with statewide averages that have been adjusted for the impact of rotation (Table 34. Labor The Lundberg farming operation employs the equivalent of 6.5 year- round, full-time people, as well as 7 seasonal workers for ~ weeks in the spring and 6 weeks in the fall. The labor required for the alternative rice operation is somewhat greater than that required for conventional rice growing because of the repeated irrigation and surface tilIage to control weeds during the fallow year. As stated earlier the number of cycles of irrigation and surface tiliage varies from time to time and from one fielc! to another, depending on weather conditions and weed populations.
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 405 Soil Fertility Until recent years the Lundbergs applied chicken manure to their experi- mental fields. To reduce costs the Lundbergs now rely on legumes as the source of nitrogen. The field operations manager (G. Brewster, interview, 1986) attributes the current low yield in the experimental field to a lack of nitrogen. Alternative fertility management practices, including the use of a combination of purple vetch (Vicia benghalensis) and bed beans (Vicia faba), are being explored. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, vetch was used extensively in Butte County as a green manure crop. The use of vetch was discontinued because of the availability of inexpensive inorganic fertilizers and because, in wet winters, patches of the vetch would drown out, causing irregularities in the unifor- mity of field nitrogen distribution. Areas lacking in nitrogen had to be spot- treated, causing lodging (and poor yields) in areas in which overlaps oc- curred and poor yields in areas that did not get spot-treated. Today, with laser leveling, semidwarf varieties of rice, and improved drainage, former problems with using legumes as a nitrogen source might be more easily overcome If. Hill, correspondence, 1987~. Insect Control The development of a rice crop proceeds through four phases: (1) the seedling stage, from germination until the initiation of tittering; (2) the vegetative stage, from the onset of filleting until the beginning of panicle formation; (3) the flowering stage, from panicle initiation through fertiliza- tion of the rice flowers; and (4) the ripening stage, from flower fertilization until the rice is mature and ready for harvest. The duration of these phases and the severity of the pest problems that may accompany them depend on the choice of cultivar; the temperature of the soil, air, and irrigation water; the length of the growing day; and other environmental conditions and cultural practices (Flint, 1983~. Gordon Brewster, the manager of the Lundberg Family Farms field oper- ations, carefully scouts all of the farm's fields on a continuous basis throughout the growing season. Before working for the Lundbergs, Brews- ter was a researcher with Occidental Petroleum, where he was in charge of developing agricultural chemicals for rice production. He uses the latest chemical technology for pest control on the conventional acreage, but he uses only those methods officially approved by state law as organic on the experimental fields. Disease Control The major disease afflicting rice in northern California is stem rot, a fungal disease. The causal organism, Magnaporthe saZvinii, is best known in its sclerotial stage as ScZerotium oryzue (Webster et al., 19811.
406 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE All cultivars of rice currently being grown in California are susceptible to stem rot fungus, although some cultivars exhibit some degree of tolerance. The first sign of the disease in the field is the appearance of small, dark lesions on the rice stem (or culm) at the water level. The lesions expand as the season progresses, eventually destroying the sheaths. The adverse ef- fects of the disease are a reduction in the size of the panicle (the number of rice seeds per panicle), a reduction in grain quality, and increased incidence of lodging (rice plants bending horizontally rather than standing straight, making harvesting difficult and causing the loss of grain). The inoculum of stem rot is carried over from one year to the next in sclerotia (compacted masses of fungus mycelium that serve as the dormant stage of the fungus), which are associated with rice straw from the previous year. The principal method of controlling stem rot is burning the rice straw following harvest to achieve total removal of the crop residue and any stem rot sclerotia. D. Mikkelsen (interview, 1986) estimates that rice straw is burned on approximately 95 percent of all California rice acreage, either in the fall following harvest or in the spring. This practice causes severe air pollution and is currently controlled by law in California. Straw burning is the recommended disposal and stem rot control method, provided that it is done only during designated times and by prescribed methods (Flint, 1983~. Incorporation of rice straw is not recommended for managing stem rot (Flint, 1983~. Mikkelsen, however, says that the practice now recommended by the University of California Cooperative Extension as an alternative to burning is to chop the straw (either with an attachment to the harvest combine or as a separate operation with a flail chopper) so as to maximize the contact of the rice with the soil and moisture, thereby expediting the decomposition of the straw and the sclerotic (interview, 1986~. The Lundbergs maintain that stem rot is not a severe problem in their fields because of the methods they use to expedite the decomposition of the straw and because they subsequently incorporate it into the soil. How- ever, this claim has not been tested experimentally. The incidence of stem rot is affected by a number of cultural practices, most notably the destruction of sclerotia by burning or decomposition. Stem rot is more serious in dense stands than in more sparse stands of rice. Consequently, high seeding rates and excessive nitrogen application (which promotes more extensive growth of foliage) tenet to increase stem rot dam- age. Improperly timed applications of herbicides in particular, MCPAlate in the season and at high rates of application tend to injure and stress the rice plants, predisposing them to stem rot disease. The application of MCPA is recommended no later than the first 55 days after planting to provide the best control of weeds and to reduce the risk of phytotoxicity or chemical damage to the rice plant (Flint, 1933~. Webster et al. (1981) conducted experiments in Butte and Yolo counties on alternative methods of managing rice straw residue, depending on the severity of stem rot disease. The treatments included burning the straw in
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 407 the fall, followed by dishing, and five management practices that did not involve burning. These five methods involved various tillage practices in- tended to incorporate all or part of the straw into the soil. The results of the experiment indicated that burning the straw in the fall, followed by dishing, was the most effective method of controlling stem rot. This method resulted in significantly lower numbers of viable sclerotia per gram of soil, lower disease severity ratings, and somewhat higher yields of rice. The treatments included in this research did not, however, include the methods currently employed by the Lundbergs. Other fungal pathogens that cause diseases afflicting rice in this area include AchyZa klebsiana and Pythium (causing seed rot), the Rhizoctonia spe- cies (causing sheath blight), and Helminthosporium oryzue (producing brown leafspot). These diseases appear to be less of a problem in California than in other regions of the United States and in humid areas of other countries; they cause less damage in California than does stem rot (Flint, 1983~. Control of Tadpole Shrimp and Insects The tadpole shrimp, a hardy crustacean, reaches a maximum length of 3 inches. It is able to survive the dormant stage for many years in dry soil and to revive quickly as soon as the soil is irrigated. About 9 days after hatching, tadpole shrimp begin their reproductive phase by digging into the soil, uprooting new rice seedlings, or cutting off new leaves. The muddy water caused by the digging reduces light penetration and slows the emer- gence of rice seedlings. Although low populations of tadpole shrimp do not cause economic damage, high populations have been known to greatly diminish rice stands and reduce yields. Conventional practice is to control tadpole shrimp by irrigation manage- ment or application of pesticides. Growers are advised to flood the field as fast as possible, and seed as soon as possible after flooding has been initiated. During the seedling stage, when populations of tadpole shrimp i_ . ~ ~ · ~ .1 _ _1_ _ 1 1 _ ~^^ ~ ~ · _1 _ ~ __ are found to be above economic damage turesno~us you or more a~s~oagea seedlings per square foot), a chemical treatment is needed (Flint, 1983~. Parathion can be applied at 0.1 pint per acre at a cost of $2.17 per acre (Table 4~. Alternatively, if algae are becoming a problem, both tadpole shrimp and algae can be controlled simultaneously by application of finely ground copper sulfate (5 pounds per acre) at a cost of $4.02 per acre. These costs include $1.90 per acre for aerial application (Wick and Klonsky, 1934~. In their experimental field the Lundbergs prevent damage by tadpole shrimp through intermittent irrigation during the early stages of rice growth, a process that delays the anaerobic stage of irrigation (perpetual flooding) until after the rice plants have reached a height of 6 to ~ inches. At this stage, the tadpole shrimp do not cause injury to the rice (Flint, 1983~. Rice water weevil larvae feed on the roots of rice plants, causing loss of yield by inhibiting growth, tillering, and plant vigor (Flint, 1983~. The wee-
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410 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE vil is more prevalent in fields where rice is grown continuously (without interruption of a fallow year or a different crop) and in areas where rice is the prevalent crop. Crop rotation, therefore, is a recommended practice for preventing weevil damage. Where weevil populations are high, preflooding application of a pesticide (10 pounds of carbofuran at $9.71 per acre, includ- ing aerial application cost) is recommended (Wick and KTonsky, 19841. Rice Zeaiminer larvae burrow into rice leaves locater! under or near the surface of water, thereby reducing vegetative development and, conse- quently, yields. Preventive measures include shallow irrigation in the ger- mination stage, especially when temperatures are low and plant growth is slow. Parasitic wasps and high temperatures (promoting rapid growth above the water line) are natural control factors. The recommended insecticide is parathion (0.1 pint at $2.17 per acre), which also controls tadpole shrimp (Wick and Klonsky, 19841. Leafhopper, armyworm, and grasshopper ordinarily do not cause significant damage to rice crops in the area of California in which the Lundberg's farm is located. Mosquitoes are a nuisance to human populations near rice fields and some- times are vectors of disease. Local mosquito abatement officials, who spray heavily infested areas with ethyl parathion, reported that they refrain from applying pesticides near fields where the farmer is producing crops without pesticides, including the Lundbergs' 100-acre experimental field. Mosquito Abatement Districts in many areas now use Gambusia (mosquito fish) in irrigation canals as a biological control measure, which is highly effective in open water where predator fish are not prevalent arid water quality is favorable. Weed Control The control of weeds is a major concern for rice growers. Watergrass be controlled largely through (EchinochZoa phyIlopogon and E. oryzoides) can continuous flooding to a depth of 3 to 4 inches for 21 to 28 days after planting. Although continuous flooding provides good control of most terrestrial weeds, it tends to encourage various aquatic plants such as cer- tain grasses, sedges, bulrushes, arrowheads, waterhyssop, water plaintain, pondweeds, and algae. The Lundbergs rely largely on crop rotations (rice- vetch and fallow or rice-rice-vetch and fallow) for weed control. Crop rota- tion is recommended for cases of severe infestations (Flint, 1983~. Watergrass becomes a particularly severe problem where the water depth is maintained at less than 3 to 4 inches. For this reason, it is important that the rice field be leveled every few years (sometimes annually), because sometimes the soil settles in some areas or is rutted by harvesting machines or the wind when the soil is fall-tilled and left bare. Application of herbicides is the conventional method of weed control. The Lundbergs use molinate, one of the most widely used herbicides in the area, as necessary to control weeds in their conventional rice. During the
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 411 site visit to their farm, one field of 320 acres was observed in which no herbicide had been applied. Although rice plant and weed plant popula- tions were not counted, it appeared that the stand of rice was quite heavy and uniform; only an occasional weed was evident. The Lundbergs attrib- uted effective weed control to their rotation sequence and cultural practices during the third (fallow) year of the rotation used in their conventional rice. They applied only 32 pounds of nitrogen per acre to this field, which yielded approximately 70 hundredweight per acre in 1936, compared with a county average of 74 hundredweight in 1985. County average yield data for 1986 were not available when this report was prepared. Irrigation The conventional method of producing rice includes flooding the rice field continuously from before planting (May 15 to June 1) until the rice is mature. The soil is then drained and dried enough to support harvesting equipment prior to harvest in October or November. The direct seeding and intermittent flooding (flushing) that the Lundbergs practiced during stand establishment of their organically produced rice can increase the time be- tween planting and harvest by 7 to 14 days if. Hill, communication, 19861. Rice varieties that came into use after 1981 have somewhat shortened grow- ing season requirements, which are compatible with the Lundbergs' prac- tices. The water must be relatively warm, preferably about 70 to 75°F. Water temperatures above 90°F or below 60°F are detrimental to rice growth. Cold water during the growth stage seriously retards seedling and stand devel- opment. SIow-growing seedlings are vulnerable to various pests; weeds are also more problematic when the rice stand is sparse. Where water is cold, rice growers sometimes allow the irrigation water to stand in warming basins before it flows into the rice fields in order to prevent a reduction (by as much as 45 percent) in rice yields (Miller et al., 1980; Flint, 19331. Well water temperatures usually fall in the 66 to 76°F range. Water diverted from the nearby Oroville Dam on the Feather River to the Lundberg farm is below 55°F until May 15 and below 63°F in midsummer (Miller et al., 1980~. The ideal water depth depends on the developmental stage of rice. Shal- low water, 1 to 4 inches, favors stand establishment and tiller development, particularly when the short statured varieties of rice are grown. As the rice grows taller, deep water is preferred for controlling various terrestrial weeds (most notably watergrass, the most serious weed in rice production in California) and discouraging growth in rodent populations. From the completion of tittering (about 60 days after planting) until 3 weeks before heading (development of panicles), water depth has little effect on rice plant development. However, from 3 weeks before heading until the panicles are developed, water depth is very important, particularly in areas subject to coo! night temperatures. Empty florets increase when rice plants are subjected to coo] temperatures, and rice yields are greatly
412 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE reduced. When irrigation water is kept relatively deep at this time, panicle development is protected from the low ambient air temperatures that are most likely to occur at night (Miller et al., 1980~. Typically, between 5 and 9 acre-feet of water are delivered to a rice field. Most of this water moves through the field and is reused in the network of rice irrigation districts, eventually being returned to public waterways. The crop requires about 3 acre-feet, including what is lost through evapotran- v operation. lance uses about flu percent more water than aLtauta ~L'. Mu<kelsen, interview, 1986~. The Lundbergs apply an average of 5 acre-feet of water. The Lundbergs' intermittent flush-irrigation practices can delay harvest by 7 to 14 days it. Hill, correspondence, 1986~. However, with currently used rice cultivars, this delay is problematic. Flooded rice fields where green manure crops or straw have been incor- porated occasionally exhibit a buildup of organic acids (lactic, butyric, ace- tic, and propionic) in the soil. These acids later break down into carbon dioxide, which can (if present in excessive quantities) inhibit plant respira- tion and uptake of water and nutrients (D. Mikkelsen, interview, 1986~. This problem tends to occur when large quantities of straw or other plant mate- rials are buried deeply in the soil and subjected to anaerobic decomposition. The toxic gases usually develop during the first 20 days. When this problem occurs, the fields may have to be drained and dried out to aerate the soil to deactivate the production of phytotoxic hydrogen sulficle (Miller et al., 1980~. Toxic gas production by rice fields is not considered an environmental threat to air quality (D. Mikkelsen, interview, 1986~. PERFORMANCE INDICATORS Rice Yields The Lundbergs have continued to experiment with various nonchemical approaches to rice production. Their experimental method of production has changed substantially each year. During the 1986 case study site visit, they reported that the experimental rice enterprise became profitable for the first time in 1985, with a yield of 44 hundredweight per acre. However, in 1986 the yield dropped to 27 hundredweight (see Table 3), and the experimental crop sustained a financial Toss. Furthermore, the yield of the experimental rice is obtained only every other year because of the 2-year rotation (rice and legume-fallow-legume); the annual average yield there- fore, is one-half the measured yield in a given year.* Most conventional rice growers use a rotation with 1 year of fallow and 2 years of rice production because of federal price-support program rules. A v , *Prior to price-support program changes in 1981, a more intensive rotation (5 in 6 years) was common. On clay soils, no alternative crop is ordinarily grown in the non- rice year. On lighter soils, rice is rotated with a cash crop (wheat, safflower, and others) U Hill, correspondence, 1987~.
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 413 grower receives a de facto yield of two-thirds the average production per acre harvested. The average yield of rice grown in Butte County during 1985 was 74 hundredweight per acre harvested (see Table 3~. The season average price was $7.90 per hundredweight. In contrast, the Lundbergs paid an average of $11.75 per hundredweight to their 10 contract growers using nonchemical methods (G. Brewster, interview, 19861. Yield data for these farms are not available. However, during the 1986 site visit interview, the Lundbergs indicated that the yields and net returns from their experimental fields and those of their contract farmers vary consider- ably. For example, they reported a yield of 69 hundredweight from one of their organic contract farms that uses a 5-year rotation: 1 year of no-tiliage rice followed by 1 year of legume-fallow and leveling followed by 3 years of oats and vetch harvested as either hay or seed (depending on prices). Financial Performance Over a period of years the average annual yield of rice grown under the Lundbergs' alternative system is substantially less than that of conventional rice. The question remains, however, whether the reduced yield is more than offset by the higher price received for certified organic rice and the lower production costs that appear to be possible, at least in some years. The Lundbergs follow a budgeting approach based on the University of California Farm Management Extension enterprise budgets (Wick and Klon- sky, 1984) in analyzing the economic approach of their farm operations. Brewster was asked to examine the 1985 University of California rice budget and to indicate the comparable costs incurred on their experimental 100- acre field in 1985 (Tables 4 and 5~. Because the Lundbergs plant the rice seed by no tilIage into the flail- chopped mulch of purple vetch, they have a cash cost of seedbed prepara- tion only one-third that of the conventional rice growers $7.94 per acre compared with $26.34 per acre. The soil fertility management program on the Lundbergs' experimental acreage is substantially less expensive than that on their conventional acreage because of the nitrogen and organic matter supplied by the vetch. The entire fertility management cost is $16.00 per acre, the cost of planting and flail-chopping the purple vetch. By com- parison, the conventional rice fertility management program cost is $66.61. However, as previously noted, the Lundbergs view their soil fertility on the experimental acreage as deficient in nitrogen. They are modifying their experimental method to meet more adequately the nitrogen requirements of the rice crop. Lack of nitrogen is clearly indicated as the primary factor limiting their experimental rice yields. Another major difference between conventional and alternative rice oc- curs in the cost of pest control: no direct cost incurred by the Lundbergs versus $41.11 per acre for the conventional pest control program. The con- ventional approach includes a per acre application of 10 pounds of carbo- furan for control of rice water weevil, 0.1 pints of parathion for control of
414 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE TABLE 5 Summary of Costs and Returns/Acre for Conventional Production Versus Lundberg Family Farms' Experimental Organic Rice Production, 1985 Dollars/Acre Conventional Organic Item Direct cash costs Preharvest cultural costs 185.34 71.14 Harvest costs Drain and open levees 3.26 3.26 Custom harvest, haul, and dry: $1.81/hundredweight 134.24 79.82 Postharvest costs Mow levees, clean around boxes 2.01 2.01 Burrung rice straw 2.45 0 Rolling rice straw or chisel 0 15.00 Total, direct cash costs 327.30 171.23 Revenue during crop years Conventional rice: 74 hundredweight at $7.90/hundredweight 584.60 Lundberg experimental rice: 44 hundredweight at $11.75/hundredweight 517.00 Net return over cash costs 257.30 345.77 Fallow year costs Triplane Concluding move crawler) 5.49 0 Roto spike: 3 times at $10.00/acre 0 30.00 Landplane (including move crawler) 0 20.48 Flush-~rrigate: 3 times at $3.50/acre 0 10.50 Laser level (custom hired 60.00 60.00 Plant purple vetch 0 14.00 Total, fallow year costs 65.49 134.98 Net return over cash cost/acre/year 149.70 105.40 Cash cost/hundredweight rice 4.86 6.96 NOTE: Conventional rotation is 2 years of rice followed by 1 year of fallow. The 1985 Lundberg Family Farms' experimental rotation was 1 year of rice followed by 1 year of legume-fallow. SOURCES: Conventional rice yield from C. M. Wick and K. Klonsky, Sample Costs of Rice Production, Butte County (Davis, Calif.: University of California, 1984); organic rice yield and price from Gordon Brewster, field manager, Lundberg Family Farms, interview and correspondence, August 1986; state average price from California Crop and Livestock Reporting Service (California Field Crop Review 7:1). rice leafminer and tadpole shrimp, 40 pounds of molinate for control of barnyard grass, and 14 ounces of MCPA for control of broadleaf weeds. The costs of these and other options are listed in Table 4 (Wick and Klonsky, 19841. Other preharvest costs are similar, with two exceptions. First, the Lund- bergs use 5 acre-feet rather than 6 acre-feet of water; the difference is attributed to more careful management (G. Brewster, interview, 19861. Sec- ond, they plant the experimental rice by no tilIage, using rice seed that has not been soaked or treated, at a cost of $10.00 per acre for planting, in addition to the cost of the seed. The conventional method is to soak, partially sprout, and treat (with a fungicide such as captan) the rice seed by aerial spraying prior to planting, at a cost of $~.30 per acre.
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 415 The overall preharvest costs total $184.43 per acre for conventional rice; for the alternative rice produced by the Lundbergs in 1985, the costs were $71.14 per acre. The conventional rice budget, however, is for a 3-year rotation (rice-rice-fallow), while the Lundberg budget is for a 2-year rotation (rice-legume and fallow legume). Consequently, when net returns are cal- culated on the basis of these budgets, it is necessary to transform the costs and returns per acre harvested into average figures per acre per year based on the crops in the rotation. In making these calculations, it is assumed that the conventional rice yield is 74 hundredweight per acre (county aver- age), compared with 44 hundredweight obtained by the Luncibergs in 1985 from their experimental rice. Consequently, harvest costs (roughly propor- tional to yields) are substantially less for the alternative than for the conven- tional operation (see Table 5~. The Lundbergs do not pay to burn rice straw. They use tilIage practices that expedite decomposition of the straw and incorporate it into the soil. The cost of the Lundberg approach is higher than the cost of burning rice straw $15.00 versus $2.45 per acre harvested. The total monetary value of the nutrients retained in the field and the improved organic matter in the soil associated with decomposing rather than burning the straw is un- known. However, D. Mikkelsen (correspondence, 1987) estimates the de- composed straw reduces nitrogen fertilizer needs by about 20 percent, a potential savings of about $9.00 per acre (based on Klonsky and Wick data; see Table 4~. A method to measure the additional value of organic matter and nutrients other than nitrogen has not been developed. The Lundbergs' total direct cash costs per acre for organic rice are roughly one-half those of the average conventional producer in the area ($171.23 versus $327.30~. The organic rice yield is lower than that of conventional rice, but this is offset by the higher price for organic rice. The values of the conventional and organic rice crop per acre harvested were similar ($584.60 versus $517.001. The net return over direct cash operating costs per acre of rice harvested was $257.30 for conventional rice and $345.77 for the Lund- bergs' experimental alternative rice. When these net returns are adjusted for the rotation and costs of the fallow year are taken into account, however, the results are reversed: $149.70 per acre of rotation per year for the conven- tional rice and $105.40 for the Lundberg experimental crop in 1985. In other years, net returns were lower for the Lundbergs' organic production ant! higher for conventional rice, further widening the difference between the two types of rice. Overhead and indirect costs, such as interest on operating expense, book- keeping, depreciation, insurance, taxes, and other necessary expenses are not taken into account in the calculations for producing conventional and alternative rice. Most of these indirect costs would be approximately the same for experimental and conventional rice producers, so the per acre differences in net returns would not be significantly affected by this omis- s~on. The Lundbergs are aware that what they call the organic rice market is rather fragile; the yield and acreage of organic rice have been increasing. By
416 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE reducing the production quota for each of the contract =~rowers, they hope to avoid a catastrophic decline in prices. For many years the Lundbergs have been able to maintain a substantial premium price for organically grown rice. For example, as of January 1936, the price of aD rice in California (including an approximately $4.00 per hundredweight government program payment) averaged $7.90 per hundredweight, compared with $11.75 per hundredweight for rice certified as organic (California Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, 1986; Lundbergs, interview, 1936~. The Lundbergs reported that they were subsidizing their experimental · . . . . . ~ _ . , rice production by approximately ~~u,uuu per year In 19hZ (Madden et al., 1986~. The revenue from the sale of their 100 experimental acres of rice was wed below expenses. At that time, they indicated their willingness to con- tinue subsidizing their experimental enterprise because they hoped that it would become profitable. They were wining to make this sacrifice because they were concerned about the health implications of pesticide use. The Lundbergs say that they are committed to developing profitable cultural practices that minimize environmental damage and residues of agricultural chemicals on the food they produce and market. Environmental Impacts - A- - Production of rice by conventional, recommended practices gives rise to several environmental concerns- notably, water pollution caused by pesti- cides and air pollution created by burning rice straw. The Lundbergs do not burn rice straw on any of their acreage. According to the University of California manual for IPM for rice (1983), some of the pesticides used in rice are hazardous to people. The person most at risk is the applicator; other people who spend time in the fields (field workers and irrigators) may also be exposed. People in surrounding areas may suffer pesticide poisoning when sprays drift from the field into populated locales. It is also important to consider the hazard pesticides may have for fish, wildfowl, and domestic animals, especially sheep grazing on levees. Mi- O~rating waterfowl may die if they are in the fields during application of various insecticides. Fish may die if pesticide-contaminated water from paddies or soak water drains into streams and bodies of water flowing into streams or rivers. Cumulative levels of certain pesticides draining from Sacramento Valley rice fields into the Sacramento River have caused concern about drinking water quality and taste and health. In the Sacramento area and other loca- tions, agricultural pesticide concentrations in water are high enough (in the parts per billion range) for short periods of time to cause an offensive taste; however, the health implications are unclear. These problems can be miti- gated to some extent by water recirculation systems now in common use that allow for decomposition of the pesticides before water is let out of the fields.
THE LUNDBERG FAMILY FARMS 417 An emerging problem In conventional rice production is the development of resistance to pesticides among strains of various pests. In some areas, tadpole shrimp are resistant to parathion, and mosquitoes that breed In rice fields have been found to be resistant to particular insecticides. Using pesticides can also induce emergence of secondary pests (National Research Council, 1986~. When substantial numbers of the natural preda- tors ant! parasites are kiBed because of pesticide use, certain secondary pest populations may begin to rise. REFERENCES California Crop and Livestock Reporting Service. 1986. California Field Crop Review 7(February 26~:1. Flint, M. L. 1983. Integrated Pe-s~~~Management for Rice. Publication No. 3280. Berkeley, Calif.: Division of Agricultural Sciences, University of California. Madden, P., S. Dabbert, and J. Domanico. 1986. Regenerative Agriculture: Concepts and Selected Case Studies. Staff Paper No. 111. University Park, Pa.: Department of Agricul- tural Economics and Rural Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University. Miller, M. D., D. W. Henderson, M. L. Peterson, D. M. Brandon, C. M. Wick, and L. I. Booher. 1980. Rice Irrigation. Leaflet 21175. Berkeley, Calif.: Division of Agricultural Sciences, University of California. National Research Council. 1986. Pesticide Resistance: Strategies and Tactics for Manage- ment. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Webster, R. K., C. M. Wick, D. M. Brandon, D. H. Hall, and J. Bolstad. 1981. Epidemiology of stem rot disease of rice: Effects of burning versus soil incorporation of rice residue. Agriculture and Natural Resource Publications, University of California. Hilgardia 49~3~February:1-2. Wick, C. M. 1975. Cash Costs of Total Rice Residue Incorporation into the Soil. Rice Review. Oroville, Calif.: Butte County Agricultural Extension Service. Wick, C. M., and K. Klonsky. 1984. Sample Costs of Rice Production, Butte County. Davis, Calif.: Cooperative Extension Service, University of California.