Brown rice, white rice, now GREEN rice

A major rice grower in California is looking to sell green rice. "Green" as in solar-powered.

A major rice grower in California is looking to sell green rice. "Green" as in solar-powered. Of course, like all crops, rice needs sun to grow and ripen. Now Far West Rice, Inc. of Cypress, California, is going to harvest, mill, store, move and bag rice using solar-generated electricity. Today they unvielled the world's largest solar generating plant to be used for rice production.

Here's how the company sees the economics of its solar investment: "The cost of the $6.5 million installation was partially offset with $1.8 million in solar rebates from PG&E [California utility company] and is expected to generate 1 Megawatt per year, meeting approximately 70-80% of the total energy costs of the rice plant."

They used Mitsubishi solar panels and the installation was constructed by Pacific Power Management. PPM specializes in custom-built commercial solar installations.

Rice supply, prices

Rice hit records prices around the world in May. Some Asian governments have taken action to keep retails prices from rising further. Pakistan. Philippines.

And an American researcher* says he's found a way to make rice fields more productive, and it means breaking with a lot of ancient farming traditions. The work being done at Cornell University is a long way from California's rice fields, not to mention those of southern Asia. But it promises major increases in rice output per acre.

The revolutionary rice approach: plant early, then give young plants plenty of room. Don't ever flood fields. [Boy, is that good news for dry rice-growing areas like California's arid Central Valley.] So this system claims to save water and increase production. In many areas, saving water reduces use of energy to move that irrigation water. This System of Rice Intensification looks for the quality of individual plants not the number of plants. Rice traditionalists around the globe are not tickled to hear about this from a New Yorker.

If this research leads to major changes in rice cultivation and increased production it will become a leading example for the next generation to look back at a second green revolution that met the food and energy crisis of the early 21st Century. Let's hope.

* Here's more on the Cornell researcher working on improved rice production methods.