Thursday, October 28, 2010

Burning the rice fields


This is the time of year when you can look in almost any direction and see one or more plumes of thick white smoke rising from the rice fields here in northeast Arkansas.

It seems odd, given the fact that it compromises air quality and could turn disastrous in this near-rainless summer and autumn when we have a ban on outdoor burning in most counties in the region.

This photo was shot about 3 p.m. today east of Jonesboro.

My casual online research indicates that the whole point of the exercise is to dispose of the rice straw left after harvesting since there is no significant market for it. Burning leaves about 70 percent of the unharvested grain available to waterfowl on the surface of the ground. And, as we know, duck hunting is a very big deal around here.

If farmers didn’t burn the fields, their options for disposing of the straw would be to plow it into the soil or haul it away. Both are way more expensive than burning and don’t benefit waterfowl.

So they burn.

No comments: