DAVIS, Calif., March 24 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are developing a simple water test for use by Uruguayan rice farmers that indicates whether it's safe to drain flooded rice fields.
University of California-Davis researchers said they're helping Uruguayan scientists create the test that checks for the herbicide clomazone, which is used on 78 percent of Uruguay's rice fields.
The investigators say clomazone in high doses can cause liver disease in experimental animals and it is known to disrupt fish hormones.
However, the researchers say clomazone usually degrades to safe levels during rice-growing season. Holding water on the fields for just the right amount of time can make the water safe for streams and rivers, without damaging the farmer's harvest.
The new technology -- expected to eventually be available as a "dipstick" field test -- will give rice growers a way of accurately determining whether a rice field's degradation process is complete, the researchers said.
A farmer would take a few ounces of water from the rice paddy, dip the test stick into the sample and wait for results. If the stick turns one color, the water is safe to release. If it turns a different color, the farmer should wait a few days and test again.
The new test is described in the early online edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.