AFRI Rice Culture Study

See our blog on this project. Click here.

This program is completed. See the information below about what the program entailed. The Delta Science Center is working on a special grant in conjunction with UC Davis and UC Berkeley that will include local high school students. Below are the details of the project. 

USDA Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Funded Grant

Collaborating Organizations: Bachand & Associates, UC Davis, Hydrofocus, USGS, Stillwater Sciences, Wetlands and Water Resources, UC Berkeley, U.C. Cooperative Extension, Delta Science Center

About two thirds of the 740,000 acres in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) are in agriculture. The drained peat soils of the Delta have provided fertile soils for agriculture since the late 1800s when these lands were reclaimed from existing wetlands. Since then, the Delta environment has dramatically deteriorated as evidenced by subsidence.  2.5 billion cubic meters of peat soils have oxidized causing subsidence up to 20 feet or more below sea level on many Delta islands. 

Subsidence has been indicative of other severe consequences: extensive greenhouse gas emissions, construction of a 110 mile levee network, risks to California’s water supply through the California State Water Project, degradation of water quality.  If current agricultural practices remain unchanged, things will only get worse. Peat oxidation will continue resulting in further subsidence over decades; GHGs will continue to be emitted with an additional estimated 158 Mtonnes CO2eq of C and N2O will be lost to the atmosphere by 2050; levee failure risks will increase from deterioration and from increasing hydraulic gradients across the levees from the superposition of sea level rise and subsidence; and water quality will continue to be degraded.  Clearly, agriculture needs to change in the Delta.  

The primary long-term goal of this project is to demonstrate rice based cropping systems as an agricultural solution in the Delta with important environmental benefits: mitigating subsidence and concurrently mitigating GHG emissions and soil loss; reducing risks to California water supply, including the agricultural users throughout the San Joaquin Valley downstream of the Delta; and protecting water quality.  This project will assess the technical, engineering, logistic, economic and policy constraints and opportunities to expanding rice throughout the Delta and the regional and state-water project scale impacts.

The Delta Science Center is adding a High School Education component to the study offering students at Freedom High School a chance to have real life experience with terms they generally learn in chemistry and environmental studies classes. There is also a section of the study that deals with agriculture and economics. The Delta Science Center portion of the program begins in February 2013 with a special Science Fair program for all 2,400 Freedom High School science students and then moves on to work with a core group of about 30 students who will do continued studies on the project. A separate group of students through the school's AP Video class will film short segments, including interviews with those studying the project, that can shared with other classrooms throughout the Delta region. The study will continue through 2016.