Growing Rice May Help Delta

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, April 14, 2008

Scientists say dozens of islands in the delta have slowly been dropping since they were reclaimed for farming more than 100 years ago. Why? The peat soil…that’s dirt mixed with decaying vegetation…it’s evaporating. 

"The oxidation of the carbon of the peat materials which, yeah basically is turning dirt into carbon dioxide." 

Bryan Brock is with the State Department of Water Resources. He says the most promising solution is to grow rice. It’s grown under water and could keep soils on the islands from slowly vaporizing when exposed to air. And after the rice is harvested, the part of the plants left behind can help build the islands back up.   

"That plant mass would decay and over time that decayed plant mass will actually build up peat soils again." 

But there are some potential problems including water pollution from pesticides used to grow rice. 

The Department of Water Resources is funding some test rice crops. Interested farmers, researchers and levee maintenance agencies can submit proposals by April 25th.