Kellogg, Walmart learn about rice sustainability in Louisiana

Linda Benedict, Schultz, Bruce  |  9/26/2011 8:37:16 PM

Representatives from the Kellogg Co. and Walmart saw firsthand how Louisiana rice farmers use sustainable agricultural practices to produce a crop profitably in an environmentally friendly manner.

A June 30, 2011, field day at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station was a follow-up to a February planning meeting for a Master Rice Grower program in collaboration with the Louisiana Master Farmer program, Kellogg and Louisiana Rice Mill.

Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said the event allowed farmers to show how they are good stewards of Louisiana’s natural resources.

Farmers also benefitted from the day, Linscombe said, because they learned the overall goals of Kellogg Company’s sustainability effort.

Kellogg U.S. Morning Foods President, David Denholm, said he was impressed by what he saw and heard. “We have a real opportunity to help consumers understand the importance of the sustainable agriculture advancements being made here.”

Denholm said Walmart sold 50 million pounds of Kellogg’s Special K cereal that uses rice and 20 million pounds of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, for which the rice is grown by Louisiana farmers.

“Kellogg is the single most important customer for rice in Louisiana,” said Bill Dore of Louisiana Rice Mill, based in Crowley.

Tres Bailey of Walmart said the corporation has its own sustainability initiative in effect with goals to reduce waste, conserve energy and sell products produced sustainably.

“You are the model in many cases for the best practices in agriculture,” he told farmers. “The innovations we saw today are fantastic.”
 
The sustainability movement is not intended to force environmental practices to be used, Bailey said. “This is not meant to be the stick. This is meant to be the carrot approach.”

Consumers have become more conscious of products with environmentally sound origins, said Diane Holdorf, Kellogg vice president of environmental stewardship. “They want to know they are doing the right thing.”

Sustainability is not a new concept for rice farming and research, Linscombe told the Kellogg and Walmart representatives.

“This station has been working for the past 102 years toward sustainability,” he said. “And some of the greatest progress toward becoming more sustainable has come in the past 20 years.” 

Water quality is a concern in rice production, and more use of farming practices such as drill-seeding has helped farmers address that issue, Linscombe said.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk showed the group a rice field farmed by Buck Leonards and Sam Theunissen. The field was drill-seeded, a practice that was revived with the Clearfield rice technology developed at the Rice Research Station.

Drill-seeding was once the dominant planting technique in Louisiana, but it was replaced by water-seeding with the use of aircraft. Saichuk said drill-seeding uses less water and can be used with conservation tillage methods.

LSU AgCenter agronomist Dustin Harrell told the group about the benefits of laser-leveling and a new soil test for nitrogen that has the potential to allow farmers to reduce the amount of fertilizer needed for a crop.

Bruce Schultz

(This article was published in the summer 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

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