- Hi Jamie, Vin Lava, and All,
Louisiana produces more than 185 tons of rice hulls annually. Bureaucrats puzzle over what to do with the stuff. Because of their high silicon content, and the bonding of silicon and carbon in them, rice hulls are hard to burn as biomass, and nobody wants them as landfill. Their chemistry and texture have much in common with bamboo, expecially the kind used to make reeds for woodwind musical instruments.
Because they are such neat little silicon covered packages, they look good and blend in with the surrounding landscape better than woodchips, and they are fire-resistant too. They decompose in my garden at just about the right rate--neither too fast (like grape and apple pomace) nor too slow (like some hardwoods). Rice hulls are available throughout Lousiana, but most abundantly so in Crowley, the "rice capital."
I would like to ask Vin Lavain in the Philipines if sugar cane bagasse is popular for mulch or compost there. It is readily available in Louisiana, but I find it decomposes too quickly and isn't as aesthetically pleasing as rice hulls. (Many plant hulls, including cocoa, buckwheat, and rice look really attractive in the garden.) Louisiana State University has been experimenting with crawfish (crawdaddy or mud bugs) hulls as mulch and compost, but as a vegan gardener, they are not for me.
For architecture fans, rice hulls have another sustainable role to play as a strangely untapped building material and building insulator. Rice hulls are more fire resistant than straw and cohere well to one another under pressure, so they just might make a better insulator than cellulose and a better structural material than straw bales. A compacted rice bale might be a very formidable building material as well as a "raw organic matter" gardening base.
One visionary thinker, Paul Oliver, has suggested (mosly, I fear, to deaf ears) building a "rice house" out of the stuff.
See http://www.nibs.org/BETEC/Pres/Olivier.PDF Rice huts and rice mulch, anyone?
Bob Monie--ankle deep in brown rice in Louisiana
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