Row, Row, Row Your Rice

2018 NELA Field Day, lots of people, casually dressed, milling around near a rice field
Rice is but a dream
Jul 24, 2018
RAYVILLE, LA -- The Northeast Louisana (NELA) Rice Growers’ Association hosted its annual field day last week that began at the Elliot Colvin Farm and ended at the Rayville Civic Center.  Different from years past, this was their first ever Row Rice Field Day.  

Furrow-irrigated rice, also known as row rice, is becoming a more popular irrigation technique across the Mid-South.  It involves planting and watering into furrows similar to corn, soybeans, and cotton.  The irrigation technique was on full display at the Elliot Colvin Farm, where Louisiana State University (LSU) has an impressive research project that has provided a great deal of data discussed during the research presentations.

Dr. Dustin Harrell, agronomist with the LSU AgCenter, was one of the presenters in the morning line-up, and said, “Row rice production has several advantages.  One is you can put rice into production on nontraditional rice ground, such as ground that has a little too much slope.  Another advantage is it can give the producer the ability to make later decisions on which crop to produce, by reducing the field preparation time.  And, yet another advantage is a producer can save a lot of money pulling fewer levees, which is a big draw up here in northeast Louisiana.  In some years, it could reduce irrigation water use.”  

Harrell cautioned that row rice also has its disadvantages, namely weed control, which can be a little more difficult and more costly as compared to typical flooded rice.  Another disadvantage is weed pressure and disease pressure, such as blast.  Harrell said, “When choosing row rice, it is important to choose a cultivar that has a very good blast resistance, which might limit choice to hybrids.  And maybe one of the biggest disadvantages is nitrogen application and nitrogen use efficiency.  Going from a wet condition to a dry condition can cause more nitrogen loss.”     

Some of the growers in attendance have been growing row rice for 5+ years, and though this technique is often referred to as new, it is being heavily adopted across the Mid-South.  

Scott Franklin, a rice farmer from Rayville and vice president of the NELA Rice Growers Association, said, “Furrow-irrigated rice has quickly become a staple of Northeast Louisiana rice production, making up around one-third of the rice acres in this area of the state.  Our producers have excelled in maximizing land production while saving water and fuel in the process.  I believe this is only the beginning for row rice for the American rice industry.”

Back at the Rayville Civic Center, attendees were treated to boudin, sausage made with locally-grown rice that is a staple of Cajun cuisine.  The NELA Rice Growers Association gave out scholarships to three aspiring young people, and heard from Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs, who gave an update on the Farm Bill negotiations.   Attendees also received information about crop insurance as provided by USDA's Risk Management Agency with a focus on outreach to organic and specialty rice producers.   

The techniques and economics of row rice on a farm will be discussed at the Mississippi County Water Management Field Day in Osceola, Arkansas, on August 6.  More information can be found here.