Rice is a staple food for about half the global population and has important nutritional benefits. As the maker of UNCLE BEN’S®, the world’s only global rice brand, we are working to create a reliable long-term rice supply to support our business growth while helping to meet nutritional needs of a growing global population. We also use rice in pet foods such as NUTRO® and ROYAL CANIN®.
Rice cultivation contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, primarily methane but also nitrous oxide. It is also water intensive, so efficient water management is vital, especially in water-stressed areas. We invest significantly in scientific research to help us better understand these environmental impacts and how to address them. We then work with farmers to translate this science into innovative farming practices that boost output while reducing GHG emissions and water consumption.
Our calculations indicate that UNCLE BEN’S® rice produces significantly lower methane emissions per kilogram of grain yield of rice than the global average because of the high-yielding varieties we use. Most of the rice we source comes from temperate climates in developed countries close to our major markets, such as the U.S., Spain and Italy, and doesn’t have far to travel to our factories or consumers.
We source a small quantity of rice from India and Thailand, and are developing a high-quality supply of basmati rice from Pakistan. See the case study for more details.
Researching Lower-Impact Rice
We have funded research at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), and the University of Arkansas on the global warming potential of methane and nitrous oxide in flooded rice fields. This work will be replicated over three years and for different growing areas, providing the basis for developing a best practice for growing rice.
Early results showed that the choice of rice variety can affect GHG emissions. The team is carrying out more extensive studies, but we believe we will be able to reduce GHG emissions by breeding or selecting different rice varieties. In addition, the studies indicate that GHG emissions are lowest when using just enough nitrogen fertilizer to achieve the highest grain yield rather than over-fertilizing – a good practice that farmers can easily apply, and which also reduces impacts on water quality. The research also shows that methane emissions are greatly reduced under an alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation system, and we are now evaluating this practice with selected farmers.
Mars was instrumental in transferring UC Davis’ research methods and expertise to Italy. We funded the upgrade of analytical equipment at the Centre for Agronomic Research (CRA) in Florence, and the installation of six gas collection chambers designed by UC Davis experts at an experimental field near Bologna. These will be used to compare different rice varieties under flooded conditions. The CRA is now fully equipped for research during future growing seasons.
Also, Mars has provided funding to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a non-profit independent research and training organization that develops new rice varieties and crop management techniques to help improve the yield and quality of rice in an environmentally sustainable way. We are part of a resource-efficient rice project run by the United Nations Environment Program, through which companies and nongovernmental organizations work on a standard for good rice-farming practice, as well as tools for applying this standard.