Texas organic rice acreage has steadily increased over the past decade, driven by increased market demand. Since 1995, organic rice acreage has increased in the U.S. by almost six-fold, with a majority of acreage being grown in the Southern U.S. The acreage in Texas alone reached more than 17,000 in 2020.
Texas has over 70 certified organic rice producers scattered from Beaumont to Victoria all along the Texas coast with a few just south of Houston – still! These producers sell to nearly a dozen different organic rice buyers and this rice makes its way into several Texas grocery chains.
What are the major issues facing organic rice producers? Fertility is a concern with almost every crop and rice is no exception. Using organic cover crops though can be a real benefit to rice producers supplying 60 to as much as 108 lbs of N to the subsequent rice crop. In rice these cover crops have to be incorporated early, as much as 4 weeks early, to prevent a strange condition known as straighthead. This extra time allows the cover crop to break down with little to no effect on the crop.
Another major issue is having good organic rice varieties. Fortunately we not only have great Texas A&M AgriLife rice breeders we also have an outstanding Rice Foundation Seed Program begun way back in the spring of 1941. As researchers develop new varieties, Foundation Seed makes those varieties available to rice farmers including organic rice farmers.
If you want to learn more about rice and the rice programs of Texas A&M Agrilife go to https://beaumont.tamu.edu. If you want to read the Texas Organic Rice Production Guidelines publication go to https://tinyurl.com/cdbz3fjd. And remember to eat Texas organic rice every chance you get!