Promoting sustainable farming practices through use of precision land forming, flood control structures, on-farm water storage, and deployment of irrigation technology and new irrigation techniques is a family affair for Arkansas rice farmer, Jim Whitaker.
Whitaker received the first USA Rice Sustainability Award at the USA Rice Outlook conference this week in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Whitaker was quick to acknowledge the role everyone in his family’s operation plays in their collective commitment to sustainable farming. The Whitaker family farm is run by Jim and his brother Sam, who played an integral part of a group of rice farmers that sold the first-ever voluntary carbon credits generated by U.S. rice farmers.
The pioneering group, who call themselves Nature’s Stewards, believe that by implementing conservation practices on their rice crops they could reduce methane emissions and thereby generate a carbon credit that could later be sold on the carbon market.
A major benefit of the enhanced conservation practices is the use of fully automated water-level detection sensors. On the Whitaker farm results from a two-year study showed water savings of some 956,000 litres per hectare (624,000 gallons/acre) with automatic checks on water levels every seven minutes.
See here for video of Jim Whitaker outlining the conservation practices on his farm.
In an interview in June with NGO, the Environmental Defense Fund, Jim Whitaker said: “Conservation has always been a major component in our family operations. This project has helped save millions of gallons of water, lower fertilizer rates, increase waterfowl habitat and lower GHG emissions. We consider this a win-win for the environment.”
Off the farm, Jim Whitaker is a member of the Arkansas Rice Farmers Board, the USA Rice Farmers Conservation Committee and the USA Rice Sustainability Committee. He was recently appointed to the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.
Sources: USA Rice, American Farm Bureau, Environmental Defense Fund