Rice Stubble Management

Communicating best practice stubble management to rice growers

Rice Stubble Management

Communicating best practice stubble management to rice growers

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The issue

Burning stubble is a quick fix with minimal cost that enables good establishment of the following crop. However burning is detrimental to the environment, nutrients and organic matter are lost from the system. Rice crops produce a significant amount of stubble (in rice 12 t grain = 15 t straw) which provides many challenges.
The burning of all stubble fires in the autumn months increases the risk of local air pollution as during this period inversion layers develop as day time temperatures drop causing smoke to hang in the air close to ground level. To address this farmers need to find alternatives to stubble burning, when these can’t be used burn in a responsible manner. 

The solution

The solution involved investigating alternatives to stubble burning and developing best practice guidelines for stubble burning. Alternative were developed with in-kind support from the rice industry partners and supported by the Caring for our Country Program and a Community Landcare Grant. The trials include; composting stubble, stubble incorporation, rice bio char processing and use, and direct seeding. 

The results of these trials were extended during the last 3 seasons. Simultaneously the RGA ECP developed best practice guidelines for stubble burning. This involved collaboration with the NSW Environment Protection Authority, the Rural Fire Service, local councils and Local Land Services.

 The guidelines include:

  • Using stubble management options other than burning.
  • Burning during the middle of the day to avoid inversion layers.
  • Achieving a hot burn with dry stubble.
  • Burning with definite wind direction and velocity.
  • Avoid burning when wind is likely to carry smoke over residential areas or roads.
  • Recording stubble burning activity, including time of day and wind direction/speed.

The impact

This project enables the rice industry to continue to improve its advice to growers regarding stubble management and enables the RGA ECP to deliver an annual stubble management awareness program to ensure that growers are aware of alternatives to stubble burning and how to burn responsibly where it is necessary to do so. This program has reduced the third party impacts from stubble burning and informed the public that the rice industry is actively seeking alternatives to burning rice stubble.


There is no stand out alternative to stubble burning. It is imperative that farmers utilise the stored soil moisture from the rice crop by the timely planting of a winter cereal or oil seed crop. When the interval between harvest and new crop planting is delayed alternative stubble management practices can be deployed. This means rice stubble burning will remain as a tool of last resort for some time.

Key facts

  • The info-graphic describes the key measures growers should implement to avoid community impacts and is a component of a project to maintain stubble burning as a tool for regional farmers.

Project Partners