The ability of water resources to support aquatic life and human needs depends, in part, on reducing nonpoint source pollution amid contemporary agricultural practices. Winter retention of shallow water on rice and other agricultural fields is an accepted management practice for wildlife conservation; however, soil and water conservation benefits are not well documented. We evaluated the ability of four post-harvest ricefield treatment combinations (stubble-flooded, stubble-open, disked-flooded and disked-open) to abate nonpoint source exports into watersheds of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Total suspended solid exports were 1,121 kg ha-1 (1,000 lb ac-1) from disked-open fields where rice stubble was disked after harvest and fields were allowed to drain, compared with 35 kg ha-1 (31 lb ac-1) from stubble-flooded fields where stubble was left standing after harvest and fields captured rainfall from November 1 to March 1. Estimates of total suspended solid exports from ricefields based on Landsat imagery and USDA crop data are 0.43 and 0.40 Mg km-2 day-1 in the Big Sunflower and L'Anguille watersheds, respectively. Estimated reductions in total suspended solid exports from ricefields into the Big Sunflower and L'Anguille water-sheds range from 26% to 64% under hypothetical scenarios in which 65% to 100% of the rice production area is managed to capture winter rainfall. Winter ricefield management reduced nonpoint source export by decreasing concentrations of solids and nutrients in, and reducing runoff volume from, ricefields in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
Additional publication details
Soil and nutrient retention in winter-flooded ricefields with implications for watershed management