Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brazil Farmers Remain Optimistic, Embrapa Trials | by Kelly Downing

I was in Brazil a couple weeks ago, meeting with rice growers and researchers. The market for rice was relatively weak in Brazil this season, similar to that in the USA in 2011. As a result, most of the commercial growers we have worked with in the past reduced rice acreage in favor of soybean and corn production. However, as I visited with them, they are still optimistic about growing rice under center pivots, and intend to return to the crop next season, as part of their regular rotation.

On March 6, I attended the Expodireto agricultural show, in Rio Grande do Sul state, which was very impressive. Lots of ag equipment manufacturers, including center pivot companies. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and the streets are paved, which is a big change from most farm shows here in the USA, and it cuts down greatly on the dust. Although it was extremely hot (>90 F), there was a large crowd. It seemed to me to reflect great optimism among the Brazilian farmers—prices are good, profits are up and they are investing in the future.

I also met with researchers who are working on several projects and attended a field day. Embrapa is a Brazilian federal ag research corporation, and they have a temperate climate research center near Pelotas. Their rice field day on March 9 was very well attended. They devoted one of the four main tour stops to the work they are doing under a linear. These studies include variety trials, fertility studies, irrigation scheduling strategy, greenhouse gas production and their efforts to transfer nitrogen-fixing bacteria into rice roots.

At another of their research stations, near Bage´, they are working on variety trials and rotation studies, to help farmers optimize crop rotations that include rice, soybeans, and forage crops. This is a region with a historically strong cattle industry, but rice and soybeans are beginning to expand acreage in the area, so this research is very important to the future of the ag economy there.

The rice harvest was just beginning, and will probably last at least through March and into our spring. The plots at Pelotas will be harvested by the end of this month or so, and we will have some data to improve our knowledge of how things went. Although their plots looked great and appeared very productive, it is always good to have the real data to confirm your expectations.

So, here we are at the cusp of spring in the USA. A new growing season is almost upon us and everyone is again optimistic. We anticipate several new cooperators who will plant rice under center pivots this year in the USA. I look forward, like you do, to seeing how things play out, and I am excited about working our way through the season together.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

World Water Day 2012 | by Kelly Cackin

Today is World Water Day, an annual event sponsored by the United Nations (UN) that aims to bring awareness to water scarcity issues happening among a growing global population.

Each year, World Water day focuses on one over-arching topic related to the sustainability and advocacy of freshwater resources. "Coping With a Growing Global Population" is the focus of World Water Day 2012.  We have heard the alarming stat that our global population may reach 9 billion people by 2050.  How do we feed a population this large?  We are already experiencing freshwater issues, how will we grow and support food, from farm to fork?  These questions, among several others, bring well-rounded conversations and campaigns to World Water Day 2012.

The following is reposted from the World Water Day Website (

"Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:
  • follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
  • consume less water-intensive products;
  • reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost!
  • produce more food, of better quality, with less water. "

Producing crops with center pivot and linear irrigation will help the initiative to conserve water resources and feed a growing global population, from farm to fork.  This observation is one reason for beginning, and continuing, the Valley Circles for Rice project.

For rice producers looking to either convert to, or begin, center pivot and linear irrigation, benefits include:
  • Resource conservation
  • Higher profitability for growers
    • Lower total input costs
    • Another additional crop in rotation
  • Ability to grow crops on land not suitable for:
    • Traditional flood irrigation
    • Other agricultural crops
  • Precision application of chemicals and fertilizers through the center pivot/linear

Want to help celebrate World Water Day 2012? Find campaign materials and updates on worldwide events at

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Circles for Rice Video!

Valley Irrigation Rice Production Video Now Live

Valley Irrigation has recently produced a new video on rice production.  In addition to this blog, the video can be found on,, and YouTube.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Comments on Texas Article and 2012 Rice Project | by Kelly Downing

Comments on 'Low Water Levels' Article

I just read the article about Texas rice producers losing their surface water supply for 2012 (see "Texas Rice Farmers Lose Their Water "). I first heard that this might happen last fall, at the Texas Plant Protection Conference, when one speaker predicted that Texas, USA, might lose half or more of their rice acreage this year. Living in Nebraska, USA, where most areas just emerged a couple of years ago from a severe, multi-year drought, I can certainly sympathize with the growers there.

Coincidentally, I spent the past couple of weeks in Brazil, particularly Rio Grande do Sul. They are beginning their rice harvest, having about 15% finished when I left. That area, too, experienced a drought this growing season. Fortunately, irrigation helped salvage yields in many crops, including soybeans, corn and rice. As a result, losses due to drought were less than predicted. In an area where pivots have not been common, there is increasing interest in this technology.

But, back to Texas. I think we are all just a little more skittish about weather patterns like this than we were, perhaps 15 – 20 years ago. We have heard enough talk from reasonable people to at least wonder if perhaps something serious, and permanent, is happening. Frankly, that is one of the reasons I enjoy working on the Circles for Rice project.

Moving Forward with Circles for Rice Project in 2012

We are not, frankly, out to convert everybody from flood rice to pivot rice. We recognize that for most growers, the water supply is stable, reliable and adequate for your needs now and in the foreseeable future. What we ARE doing however, is verifying the validity of this cropping practice. We are simply building the body of knowledge for this crop culture, so that when someone decides that he/she wants or needs to investigate the option, there is solid knowledge, based on years of research and practical experience, available to use.

Let’s face it—the worst drought in at least 50 years is enough to give anybody pause, even if you think your water supply is inexhaustible. Through our work with researchers to understand the basic science, we aim to help establish Best Management Practices (BMP) and realistic goals for growing rice under pivots. As we cooperate with rice producers, we want to continue to transfer this knowledge from small-plot, statistically-verified research fields to the more practical arena of the “real world” of modern farmers. And, through our work with the industry to add this practice to the list of those accepted and covered by crop insurance companies, we will help establish pivot-irrigation of rice as a reasonable, valid, legitimate practice.

This means that, whether a previously-reliable water supply begins to degrade, or a rice producer needs to expand his operation into soils or areas not suited to flooded rice production, or a farmer new to the industry decides to add rice to his rotation to increase profit, battle weed resistance or replace another crop that has become unprofitable, there is at least one more option available to help him succeed.

I am excited about the opportunities we have for 2012. As the season progresses, we will share how things are going, and report our successes and failures, including harvest information. I wish you all a great growing season.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Low Water Levels Affect Texas Rice Farmers

Originally published by Nathan Koppel of The Wall Street Journal, "Texas Rice Farmers Lose Their Water" is an insightful look into low water level issues in Texas, USA.  To read the article, visit Texas Rice Farmers Lose Their Water.