Rice Farmer On Rice Straw
In another posting I linked a video about harvesting rice in my home turf. This one is about after the harvest. You have a field full of very sturdy and very long lived straw. Unlike hay, rice straw is stiff, tough on teeth, and low in any nutritional value for animals. Yes, there’s some nutrition, but not like other crops. Alfalfa, for example, is the leaves and stems of a bean like plant and very high in protein, almost no silica compounds to wear teeth. So what to do with it?
Until 1991 (i.e. long after I moved away to Silicon Valley) the only practice really was to just set the field on fire. This returned all the minerals to the soil, making them immediately available. It also resulted in about a month of “fire fog”. Consistent smoke all over the north valley. Were particulates 2.5 a real health hazard, nobody would have survived from the northern Central Valley. Also, when orchards were renewed, the old trees were piled up and just burned. Lots of smoke from them, too. In 1991, the wind blew toward the capitol, Sacramento, lawmakers got a snoot full and “took action”, trying to ban all burning. This resulted in farmers ‘splaining to them that there were a variety of rice pests only killed off by burning. The result was a mediocre compromise: Farmers could burn 1/4 of their fields per year, and only when a New Bureaucracy allowed them too. Can’t let lawmakers noses smell smoke, after all. Me? I kinda liked the smoke smell season ;-)
Now there are two new practices. One is to chop up, plough under, and flood the straw, assisting the rotting process (and encouraging more fungal growth…). Another is the newer process of making big bales out of it. There are uses for a durable straw. Just not enough for the total volume of it. So some folks bale it and sell it. I’ll have to see if there’s any available locally (if not, I can always drive the 225 miles or so ‘back home’ and ask around). I’d like to get some rice hulls for a hydroponics test, too. A small amount of the baled straw gets finely chopped as an animal feed extender.
The video also mentions a new factory under construction to make rice straw into panels for construction. For many kinds of straw, simple pressure and heat will cause the natural materials in the straw to bond, making it into a solid panel similar to “strand board” or “chip board” made from wood bits. Rice isn’t like other straw, so that they say they have a “patented process”; which implies to me they might be adding a binder. In any case, this company is busy setting up shop to turn rice straw into construction boards. MDF is medium density fiberboard:
CalPlant will soon introduce its long-awaited rice straw-based MDF, the composite panel of the 21st century.
When construction is completed this winter, CalPlant I will be the world’s first commercial-scale producer of rice straw-based medium density fiberboard (MDF), annually supplying approximately 140 million square feet of no-added-formaldehyde MDF to the building products industry.
CalPlant and its predecessor company CalAg LLC have spent many years researching, developing and patenting a process to make high quality MDF using annually renewable rice straw as the feedstock, the disposal of which has posed environmental issues in California for over a century. Rice straw is an agricultural waste product of the annual harvest, and all furnish for the plant will be procured from Sacramento Valley rice growers within a 15- to 25-mile radius of the plant site in Willows, California.
Currently, the most common practice of straw disposal is to initiate a decomposition process by flooding the fields after harvest. This practice uses a large volume of incremental amounts of precious water. By processing rice straw into MDF, CalPlant will significantly reduce the levels of water that would have been diverted from regional waterways to flood rice fields after harvest.
There’s a bit of sellers puff in the bit about the water “wasted” flooding the fields. This is done in the cold fall and winter part of the year. Pretty much 100% of that water either soaks into the ground, replenishing the ground water, or returns to the same rivers it came from, just a little bit later. Water falls from the sky here in winter, very little evaporates into it, and what does evaporate, gets deposited as rain and snow in the Sierra Nevada (as our winter winds are inland from the ocean and up the mountains.) But OK, it if sells…
A typical house of 1500 square feet would use about twice that of boards for the roof sheathing and flooring. Call it 4000 square feet if you include roof pitch increasing area and a bit of wastage. 140 Million sq.ft. would be about 35,000 homes worth. Per year. Per these folks:
California housing starts are between about 60,000 and 150,000 per year. (Sidebar: I’d have quoted an L.A. Times article, but it rapidly put a Pop Up on my screen complaining about my ad blocker and demanding I buy a subscription or some such crap, so no linky for them…)
So that means that this one factory will make about 1/2 to 1/4 of the boards needed in California. Note, too, that it says within an (average) 20 mile radius. That’s way larger than the total rice growing area in California. My alma mater, UC, says here: http://rice.ucanr.edu/About_California_Rice/ that the acreage in California is about 550,000 acres. At 640 acres to the section, and a section being one mile on a side, that’s about 860 square miles. A circle of 20 miles radius is 2Pi20^2 or 2,523 square miles. Now I know Willows. It’s not far from my old home. I’ve been there a lot (we’d go fish in the Sacramento river and drive through it on the way, or come down from Colusa). Most of the land to the West is not in rice. The rice land is off to the East from there. So why put your factory there? It is right next to a major rail line AND Interstate 5. Easy shipment for materials in, product out. What I don’t know is what percentage of the rice straw made, will be needed for making their boards. I suspect it isn’t all that much of the total… (one could estimate from average bales / acre in the video, pounds / bale, average weight of MDF, etc. but it would require a few more ‘guesses’ than I care to make. Perhaps it is on their web site somewhere).
Do note: This is a GREAT example of “resource substitution”. The wet diaper crier brigade will scream at you RUNNING OUT!!!! of wood, trees, building materials… Once any resource becomes a little more expensive from using up a lot of it, some other resource becomes economical to substitute. More straw is grown in the world, each year, than could possibly be used in any means imaginable (and many already known) for building construction. It is mostly allowed to rot, or burn. Lots of it goes into animal feed as a low nutrition filler (some rice straw does, oat straw is better). But nothing prevents us using it to build houses, other than really really cheap wood.
FWIW, I think Rice Farmer is likely near Willows, toward the Oroville side, probably along the highway between them. Just as a guess from the viewpoint in his videos. Could be a bit more south (hard to gauge distance from the Buttes in a video) but the rice growing runs thin a bit south of Yuba City (about 20 – 25 miles south) and near Chico is way too dry (20 miles north) and with a more porous rocky soil. You want valley adobe to retain the flood water. The California Rice Experiment Station is on highway 99 near there too. And yes, as a bright kid growing up in Rice Country I know a whole lot more about rice farming and strain development than I’ll have use for ;-) Everyone in my home town talks about rice at some point in the year. Farmers who came to my family’s restaurant would talk rice. Washing dishes at the “cup and saucer” sink behind the counter, you had nothing to do but listen as your hands moved. Got a decent education on rice that way ;-)
So here’s what happens after the rice is harvested, to get rid of the rice straw and prepare for the next year:
IceAge Farmer – On Brazil and Corn Shortage
I think he’s a bit OTT (Over The Top) on chemtrails like conspiracy on some bits, but does a good job digging up stuff that matters. He’s also rightly clueful about Fabians. On the shipment of corn from Brazil to Smithfield foods in the USA, he misses a small beat that Smithfield is now owned by China, and we had China trying to squeeze us by NOT buying our agricultural goods (but Trump smacked them around and handed the booty to farmers to make them whole, so thwarted that tactic). So some of that Brazilian corn to the USA was likely China trying to NOT buy US Corn for a while.
Still, the argument remains. Brazil is not going to save the world from a cold driven reduction in corn, globally.
IT IS BEGUN: Corn Shortage Brazil – Food Scarcity Means Submit to Greta
by Ice Age Farmer | Dec 14, 2019
Brazil meatpackers warn of corn shortages in 2020 — this is unlike greens or vegetables, as corn is a STAPLE for people and livestock — and Christian warns that the global warming agenda is shifting: as the world’s food supply is destroyed, they will scream “CO2” and push through the totalitarian agenda, holding the world hostage. Spread the word and start growing food.
Interesting to note he has both Bitchute and Dtube alternative sources for his videos:
As noted prior, I can’t embed active videos other than Youtube without paying up to WordPress, so I have to link the Youtube (or I’d boycott them):
Two minor reminders:
1) Folks will say “Humans can’t eat field corn!”. That is not true. Humans don’t LIKE to eat field corn. As a dent corn type, it can be made into masa, flour, tortillas, polenta, grits and more. It may not be the exact same texture and flavor as your preferred variety, but it can be done. Remembering that the feed ratio of beef is 10:1 and for pigs and chicken it is 3:1, and remembering that is one DRY pound of grain to one WET pound of meat: We could simply hold back a bit of the majority of corn that is fed to our chickens, pigs, and grain fed beef, and have more food than we can consume, even with a “shortage” of corn. It will not be the end of life as we know it if we have less grain fed steak and more polenta and tortillas. (This will not work in places where they already survive on beans, rice, and corn and where meat is rare).
2) We feed 1/3 of our corn crop to our cars, and export oil. All we need do is remove the ethanol mandate and pump a bit more oil and we get to keep eating our bacon, fried chicken, and grain fed beef steaks. Right up to the point of a 1/3 loss of the crop. (Present loss is looking like about 10% to 15%). Yes if done “instantly” it would spike gasoline prices. Done over a couple of years, not so much. Maybe 20 ¢ / gallon. Also note that while 200,000 acres sounds huge, that’s 312 sections or a block of land about 18 miles on a side. Not very big compared to the USA at about 1500 x 2900 miles…
Do NOT let the Global Warming Fascists convince you that this is an existential threat and we all must stop driving and become vegans and send them your money. It is a LIE.
So, IMHO, IceAge Farmer is maybe a few years early. We’ll need to reach about double the crop loss percentage that we’re having now before things are headed at crisis. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that can happen in 2 to 3 years if (as?) things continue to decay. We’ve already seen that propane is critical to grain drying and shortages (in Canada caused by a rail strike; in the USA due to higher than expected home heating demand) so any attempt to ban it as a fossil fuel will kill grain production. We are one CARB (California Air Resources Board) ruling away from destruction of the California Rice industry and farmers… IF you have a propane tank on your home, have it filled to capacity this coming summer, when farm demand is low. Leave the winter demand to the farmers. Yes, it will cost a couple of $Hundred when you really don’t need to spend it yet; but it will be money invested in your security and it will help farmers.
There is also the very real probability that Government Idiots and Special Interests will NOT do the simple and rational coping behaviours needed to “fix it”. For that reason alone, the recommendations of IceAge Farmer are still valid, even if the reality is potentially less dire. Since it takes a year or three to get good at gardening, or build out a hydroponic system and learn to run it right; I do recommend at least a small practice garden or small indoor hydroponic experimental station. Even if just the overpriced herb growing things like this:
It’s a lot easier to go from “I’ve done this reliably at small size, let’s scale up” to larger size, than it is to go from “I’ve got not a clue, where do I start?”…
You may have already found, linked to, or posted this, but it’s new to me. On topic — if prices rise on foods (like, in the case below, citrus from Florida, with prices perhaps rising due to various plant blights) locally grown substitutes become attractive. Only the ignorant will say you can’t grow citrus in cold climates, or that you can’t grow it cheaply, or that you can’t grow enough. Existence proof otherwise:
The Greenhouse in the Snow. “Geothermal” in that it captures heat from below the frost line …
Nice one! Like the low tech of the “geothermal”. Just bit ol’ ventilation ducts a few feet down and a low pressure low energy fan ;-) Greenhouses are a wonderful thing ;-)
I have a tangelo tree in the yard. It gives best fruit in February. It can freeze here, then. I’ve not had issues with it, just due to it being close to the house, I think.
Yeah, Florida is having a ‘Greening” blight problem. A bug that moves a plant infection around… You can manage it, but it’s a lot of added work. I suspect eventually much more citrus will be “inside” where you can keep the bugs outside.
On the rice straw board topic:
They are comparing it to standard board (used for furniture can cabinets and such too) saying it’s about the same and that the standard board uses a urea formaldehyde glue and they don’t:
That says they do use an added glue / binder.
So looks like they could prove 5 times as much as the first plant will produce. Or about 5/4 of demand to 5/2 of it. Or 1.25 to 2.5 the house demand in California. After that, they would need to add plants in Texas and Louisiana where rice is also grown. Looks like no shortage of medium density fiberboard panels in the future ;-)
(After that, they’d have to move into Oat, Wheat, Barley, Rye, and other forms of straw / feed stock ;-)
Click to access CalPlant1_product-flyer_11-19.pdf
down in the middle of that, it says that the Sacramento Valley produces 20% of the nations rice straw. So they can go to 6 x up to 12.5 x the home construction starts in California. Now California is about 10% of the total US Population, so at the high end, that’s roughly all the homes built in slow years… Just from the rice straw we already grow (and then burn or rot away…).
So, OK, not going to need a lot of oat and rice straw alternative feedstock ;-)
I also note in passing they say they can produce from 2mm to 30 mm panels and from ultralight to High Density Fiberboard. So a whole lot of product range, if the market wants it.
E. M. – you mention an interest in rice hulls. These have been used for bedding for animals for a long time. Now, even available at Amazon.
Ag_COOPs have often carried them, but I haven’t checked recently. I do see large bales of wood shavings (usually stored outside under cover), while hulls will be in bags and less noticeable.
History and future:
Wheat and other such crops produce seeds, chaff (dry coatings of the seeds), and stalks (the straw).
Modern combine harvesters cut, thresh, and clean the grains. The
chaff and the stalks are sent out the back and spread onto the field.
However, there is less straw now than there once was. Short stalk wheat
has been bred over a long time. Interesting history. An article on that is here:
If stalks of crops (straw) [not talking hay here] become a resource as the CalPlant seems to do with rice, there will be options. I suspect modern breeding techniques could enhance wheat straw with whatever it is that makes rice straw usable.
I’ll finish with a hat tip toward Julian Simon’s “ultimate resource” for those never exposed to this writer.
Strawboard has been around for a while in a couple of countries. What the California folks bring to the table is the use of rice straw and no formaldehyde (though some other straw boards don’t use any either).
And YES, Nobody has even started on genetic selection for this. Good point!
You can buy it today.
THE biggest problems the method faces are low cost wood products made from mill waste, and their input arrives once a year in a bolus, so need to store one year worth to keep the factory running… a cost forest products do not have.
But it is a great example of resource substitution and how we have unlimited building material. Another, btw, is cinder block made from coal cinders. Similarly coal ash as a cement product. “Waste” is just another word for unused resource.
OMG, Levin rips the Dims a new one:
After nearly 40 years being involved in Strawboard I can tell you that Wood based products are so much cheaper and easier to create than straw for board manufacturing that it has a Negative value relative to wood. That is farmers would have to pay to have their straw disposed of!. Before you laugh that was actually explored and considered By lobbyists and politicians. as a way to force utilization of surplus straws and make Strawboard plants financially viable. It is more difficult to make acceptable products from straw then wood and the needed resins are about 3 times more expensive per board. This does result in a better quality board. Rice straw is particularly more difficult to work with because it is Very Abrasive, particularly hard on both equipment and people and results in a “softer” board the other straws.
I hope that the Calplant1 people have operated a pilot plant before they get too deep into this, If they think that they can build a MDF plant based on Wood products plant experience they are in for a STEEP and expensive learning curve. Straw based products have some wonderful attributes to build with, such as they are naturally flame retardant and make better stronger glue joints. But there is major resistance towards sales as the customer sees the word, “strawboard” and thinks cheap!
I wonder how these Guys got $340 million dollars to build this thing. I’ll have to inquire. …pg
I suspect they are working a regulatory angle. Formaldehyde from the cheaper wood process likely to be banned by California (if if isn’t already). I have a story about lacquer thinner coming soon… CARB has banned the inexpensive material.
Do you have straw bale houses in the USA?
Very popular here (Australia) among the (green inclined) home builders as they provide very good sound and heat insulation. If rice straw is harder to breakdown naturally then it might be usable for this.
We have a few, but not many. The Eastern half of the country hss high humidity and my guess is folks fear mold issued.
Florida has a potential problem that California does not have. It can freeze rather far south down the peninsula. There are parts of central Florida that *used* to grow citrus that has not recovered from the 70s/80s/90s freezes. The growing shifted away from Gainesville to Orlando. Yeah, I remember seeing the dead trees standing in the groves. Sure, it is possible that now they have resumed growing more back toward Gainesville; but what has happened may happen again. I also remember that one *used* to be able to grow citrus much further north, into parts of LA/MS/AL/GA/SC where it is *definitely* too cold to do it now, outside of a hothouse.
Re banning formaldehyde, hmm, what are they preserving bodies with prior to burial or cremation? Are they going to ban ants, too? /semisarc
Someone needs to ban stupid politicians. /sarc
Re mold: Where I am, you live with it, and if you can’t, oh well. Histoplasmosis is a thing here, too; though more noted west and southwest of where I am now.
About particle/press board, that used to be big in the area of the state where I spent about 20 years living. Tree farming is big there (displaced cotton a fair amount). The trees were ground up for pulp and/or press/particle board plywood. Not cheap at all and widely accepted, since it was quite cost effective. If market changes mean that Drax gets it, that’s fine, too.
In time I could see them moving to engineered panels using light weight rice straw cores with skins of higher strength materials. Much like honeycomb aluminum panels or paper honeycomb filled doors. It is a lightweight material that would be ideal for that sort of usage.
If they eliminate formaldehyde based adhesives they can move to hot melt systems, or water based adhesives that are not soluble after they cure (Urea resin) but you are just moving the problem. The solution for formaldehyde based bonding systems is to provide time for the materials to out gas before they are used. Maybe even an vapor purge cycle in low pressure enclosure to draw out the fumes. (which of course would increase costs)
I once went shopping for a mobile home to see if I wanted to go that route. The sales agent took me out on the lot (middle of the summer) and wanted to show me a new unit that had just arrived a couple days before.
He opened it up and we walked in and it was like walking into a tear gas chamber. Sitting in the summer sun all closed up, the heat was baking all the fumes out of the new press board panels.
That ended my search for a new mobile home.
Larry, the Straw panels you describe are “Strawmet” panels that have been made for 50? years. They use a “baler” that drives the straw to be packaged between two “Skins” of heavy paper. you get a 2inch thick board that resembles Dry Wall, is ridged and has some insulation value. Strawmet Company builds and sells turn key plants to entrepreneurs that want to get into this business. About the cost of a new home to buy a plant, fairly low tech…pg
I was recently talking to a the father of a guy that is running something similar (or the same) to what you describe. He was going to buy a second. Complaint was that the equipment was down (‘some poor design aspects’) way too much; but the up side was that the demand (overseas … maybe Asia?) for the product was huge at this point in time.
@DonM; yes the poorly designed equipment has always been a shortcoming of that product line and you have to buy their equipment to produce & sell their “copyright” product. I have no Idea about the actual demand for the product or it’s profit level. I wasn’t impressed by the quality control abilities of the primitive production equipment…pg