Weedy Rice—Not as Simple as it Sounds

Weedy Rice is A Pesky Rice Type in Production Rice Fields

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Contrary to its name, weedy rice is not in fact weeds in rice—but it is presenting several challenges to California rice growers. To help farmers combat the pesky variety, UC Davis Ph.D. student Liberty Galvin and the horticulture and agronomy graduate group have conducted extensive research.

According to Galvin, the genetic and physiological properties of weedy rice are the same as the cultivated varieties consumers typically eat. So what’s the issue? Galvin said that besides the fact that weedy rice is off in its coloring, it’s nearly impossible to harvest.

“The issue is that the seed shatters, or basically falls to the ground. So when you go through and try to harvest it, the grain does not get collected in the harvester,” Galvin explained.

Although right now it seems that commercially growing weedy rice is not an option, there are ways to prevent it. Galvin’s research found that drilling the seeds at least two inches into the soil will eliminate seed germination or emergence in the field. This is especially useful in California, where tillage is done only to prepare the field, not plant the rice itself.

Galvin said that while growers can produce their own rice seed, it has to be certified by the California Crop Improvement Association or a Rice Seed Quality Assurance Program.  In all cases, growers are required to plant only certified rice seed so there is no opportunity for traces of weedy rice to enter the soil.

“That is why tillage depth is so important, because that’s how you reduce your seed bank,” she said.

California Rice Grower Demystifies Rice Industry

California Rice Grower Feeds Minds Also

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

By now, growers have harvested much of northern California’s rice. Most of it is already in the rice mill. While prices were low this year, production has been very good, according to Matthew Sligar, a third-generation rice grower in Gridley, up in Butte County.

California Rice Grower
Matthew Sligar, “How Rice is Harvested.”

“Yes, we just got done with rice harvest. We are chopping the rice straw that is left in the fields. We’re disking it in to aid in decomposition,” Sligar said.

“Then we flood the fields with about 4 to 6 inches of water, creating a natural habitat for migratory birds. We just let the field sit over the winter so the straw decomposes. We work it back up in the spring.”

Northern California rice growers dedicate the winter months, and even the early season months when fields are first flooded, to help migratory birds whose original habitat has been taken over by cities and expanding neighborhoods.

Birds by the millions – including ducks, geese and shorebirds – rest, feed and rear their young in rice fields during their annual migrations. “Our fields turn white like snow from the down floating feathers left behind by birds,” Sligar said.

Matthew Sligar, California Rice Grower and Blogger
Matthew Sligar, California Rice Grower and Blogger

And yet, due to global oversupply, rice prices are trending lower this season. “We had to put our rice into a marketing pool because we wanted to guarantee a home for it,” Sligar said. “We did not want to gamble on the cash market. We haven’t seen the returns yet; however, I got a great yield, and I hear most of Northern California got extremely good yields.”

“Hopefully, that will make up for some of the low price, and we might make some money. When you get a good year, you’ve got to save that money for bad years like this year, just make it through to next year,” Sligar said.

Besides farming rice, Sligar is a cyclist and a social media blogger. He produces great videos on all segments of the rice industry.

“That’s one reason why I started Rice Farming TV because whenever I’d be at a restaurant or some spot socializing, someone will say, ‘What do you do?’ I tell them that I farm rice. ‘Rice? Where do you live?’ I say, ‘I live in California.’ They don’t know that rice is grown in California, but it’s the best,” Sligar said.

 

Click below to view Sligar’s video, “How Rice is Harvested!”


Also, in Sligar’s repertoire is the best way to surprise someone you love in the middle of a busy rice season, in The Mile High Surprise!

 View more videos at ricefarmingtv.com.