Challenge for 'dry' land rice

Northern Rivers' rain fed rice deals with too much of a good thing this season

Cropping
Brett Slater, Slater Farms, Fairy Hill via Casino in a paddock of Tachiminori variety dryland rice. The crop had no herbicide or insecticide in accordance with organic principals and achieved a yield at harvest of 5-6t/ha.

Brett Slater, Slater Farms, Fairy Hill via Casino in a paddock of Tachiminori variety dryland rice. The crop had no herbicide or insecticide in accordance with organic principals and achieved a yield at harvest of 5-6t/ha.

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Rainfed rice grown in the NSW Richmond Valley experienced mixed results after a challenging season that went from very dry to very wet and continued through early harvest.

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Rainfed rice grown in the NSW Richmond Valley experienced mixed results after a challenging season that went from very dry to very wet and continued through early harvest.

Biodynamically grown Tachiminori variety was sown on Boxing Day on alluvial flats adjacent to the Richmond River at Droneys Bridge, upstream from Casino, by Brett Slater with his son Jai - who recently came home to the farm, Slater Farms, at Fairy Hill.

Mr Slater prepared his ground with a green manure crop of field peas, vetches, brassicas and oats, incorporating it into soil before spraying biodynamic preparation 500. Next season he will trial crimped green manure prior to direct drill sowing in partnership with Southern Cross University, under the direction of Prof. Terry Rose.

After a very dry spring - even for the Northern Rivers, which is traditionally that way - there was rain just prior to Christmas with sowing from Boxing Day and a break before it really got wet in which Mr Slater tickled the weeds out of a portion of his crop using a variety of farm-built inter-row cultivation implements. The crop had no herbicide or insecticide in accordance with organic principals and achieved a yield at harvest of 5-6 tonnes to the hectare, processed on farm and sold through select stores.

Sherpa variety dry-land rice ready for harvest at Fairy Hill via Casino.

Sherpa variety dry-land rice ready for harvest at Fairy Hill via Casino.

The Dorey family, Boundary Creek on the Mid-Richmond via Broadwater, farm 485 hectares across more than 30 paddocks, all sized that way to manage drainage.

"The coast here is wet and we have heavy soils and are reliant on drainage," said Owen Dorey who now lets his sons Steven and David carry on with the job.

An early planting resulted in wet conditions at harvest, with the crop on one of their parcels shot and sprung and sold for pet food at $200/t.

"We farm rice on a lower section at East Coraki that tends to flood but we get pretty good yields," Mr Dorey said. "We had a good crop towards the end of maturity and then we got inundated for a month and that affected the seed.

"We'll go again with rice. This is farming. Any other crop wouldn't have survived."

Geoff and Wayne Gollan farm rice on a paddock next door to the Dorey brothers and are just as susceptible to inundation but because they planted Sherpa and Langi varieties a month later, the wet weather in March and April helped grow the plant rather than destroy its crop.

"We got about 7.4t/ha all for human consumption," Geoff Gollan said, "Now we have rice stubble that we need to deal with."

Further reading:

Taste for organic grows during pandemic

Farm production grows beyond $66 billion

Farm confidence as good as it gets

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