VALLEY, Nebraska, USA (October 26, 2010) - Valmont Irrigation now reports record third-year yields from the Circles for Rice project, an initiative that explores the production of rice under center pivot and linear machines in an effort to increase grower profitability, explore a new crop to add to the rotation, expand the area in which rice can be produced, and conserve water and other resources.
In 2010, Valmont Irrigation assisted with five research fields collectively in the United States and Brazil, and managed 16 production ag fields combined in the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, and Ukraine.
In the United States, Dennis Robison produces rice located near Neelyville, Missouri, USA. While the majority of his fields are well-suited for flood irrigation, one field has sandy soil and hilly terrain, which previously made it impossible to produce rice. By using a Valley center pivot to grow a RiceTec hybrid rice on this field, Mr. Robison produced a dry weight yield of 8.8 mt/ha. He applied just under 560 mm of water during the season, which is half of the amount of water he uses when he floods his traditional rice fields.
"We didn't have any trouble with weeds. We did our normal herbicide treatment that we do on all our flooded rice fields," Robison comments on his experience with his field. "It turned out very well, better than I expected."
In Brazil, Mario Tuyama produces rice in Paracatu, Minas Gerais. 2009 marked the first year Mr. Tuyama worked with Valmont Irrigation to produce rice under center pivots. However, he has been producing rice under his Valley center pivot since the year 2000, but averaged below-optimum yields. With minor management adjustments suggested by the Valmont Irrigation Circles for Rice team, and a new rice variety, Mr. Tuyama was able to double his average yield to a dry weight of 6.1 mt/ha. He produced an 8.1 mt/ha dry weight yield with the variety BRS Taim, one of three rice seed brands Mr. Tuyama planted in 2009.
Throughout the 2010 growing season, not only did Valmont Irrigation collect data on traditional and non-traditional rice fields, but also recorded cost savings that rice producers have experienced with center pivot irrigation* versus flood** (Figure 1, below). Overall, a grower who produces rice with a center pivot can still be 5% more profitable, even with a slightly lower yield, than if he flooded his field. Though a rice producer may use more pesticides and herbicides with a center pivot, the fertilizer costs remain the same as with a flooded field. Because a rice field irrigated with a center pivot does not need to be flat, and many crop protection products can be applied through the irrigation machine, growers may see a 75% or more difference in labor costs, and a 50% or more difference in maintenance costs. Compared with a flooded field, fuel costs are also lower for rice produced with a center pivot due to a significantly smaller volume of water that is pumped throughout the growing season.
Valmont Irrigation is currently collaborating with several organizations and universities for this project, including: RiceTec, the University of Missouri Delta Research Center, the University of Arkansas, Agricenter International, Embrapa, and IRGA.
The Valmont Irrigation Circles for Rice project has been in process since 2008. As more data is collected and analyzed throughout the years, interest in producing rice under center pivots and linear machines continually grows.
* Center pivot data from 2010 Circles for Rice fields located in the USA.
** Flood data from University of Arkansas. Archie Flanders, et al. 2010 Crop Enterprise Budgets. December 2009.