Farmers hear about row rice possibilities

Bruce Schultz  |  11/17/2016 8:53:34 PM

(11/17/16) RAYVILLE, La. – Farmers heard about the advantages and pitfalls of growing rice on raised beds using furrow irrigation at a meeting of the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association on Nov. 15.

The practice of row rice has the potential for water savings from intermittent irrigation instead of a continuous flood, said LSU AgCenter rice extension specialist Dustin Harrell.

But row rice grown in drought conditions could use more water, he said. Harrell recalled a row rice demonstration in Arkansas last year that required 25 percent more water.

No recommendations on row rice have been established by the LSU AgCenter, nor by the University of Arkansas or Mississippi State University, Harrell said. And little research has been conducted on this type of production.

Keith Collins, LSU AgCenter county agent in Richland Parish, said on-farm work will be done to study row rice in northeast Louisiana. “We’re going to get as much as we can … to have some input data relative to paddy rice.”

Harrell said the practice also requires less land preparation with no levees, and it allows farmers to decide late in the planting season if they want to grow rice, soybeans or corn.

The current farm bill insurance provisions make rice more attractive as corn and soybean prices have taken a dip, he said.

Allowing a field to dry sets up conditions for blast disease, Harrell said. But hybrid rice, with its increased disease resistance, is a good choice for row rice as well as the Catahoula and CL153 varieties.

Additional herbicide and fungicide applications likely will be needed, he said.

Moisture meters can help determine when irrigation should be used, Harrell said. But he said adequate water should be provided during pollination.

He advised farmers not to expect a yield increase with row rice.

Steve Crawford, a crop consultant and retired LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said using herbicides at the proper time is essential.

“Never get behind,” he said. Using herbicides with overlapping residual coverage is the best strategy.

Mississippi State University rice researcher Lee Atwill said a study on row rice has been underway for the past two years to answer farmers’ questions.

“In the past few years, the interest in row rice has grown significantly,” Atwill said. This year’s work showed row rice cut water requirements by half.

The study showed that hybrid rice with a continuous flood had a cost of $878 an acre compared to row rice hybrid cost at $774 per acre, he said.

Mike Worthington with the hybrid seed company RiceTec said row rice has proven its value. “There’s potential for farmers in this area,” he said.

The rice plants form a canopy 10-14 days sooner, and harvest is 14 days earlier than rice with a conventional flood, Worthington said.

Water savings range from 30-50 percent, he said, and the practice requires less labor and gives farmers flexibility late into the season for deciding which crop they will grow.

Farmer Brooks Greer, of Richland Parish, said he was satisfied with the results of growing row rice on a 40-acre field this year.

“We’re going to try to do it next year,” he said.

Heath Herring, of Tensas Parish, said he grew row rice on a 70-acre field this year, and water usage dropped by half.

“I like it, and I’m going to continue doing more of it,” he said.

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