Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

You might recall I had a wedding to attend on July 7. On Monday, July 9, I flew to China for the rest of the month. Among other duties, I met with researchers at Ningxia University, who are working with us to study the implementation of center pivot rice in their province. Like the USA, China is faced with some significant challenges in the water resources arena, and they are keenly interested in finding ways to conserve water use and improve irrigation efficiency.
Fertility problems
My visit to Ningxia began on July 18, with a visit to the center pivot rice field established this spring. I must be blunt: it is a disappointing field. This field has seemed star-crossed from the beginning. There were delays in ordering and, as a result, installing the center pivot, and further delays in getting power and water supplied to it, so planting was delayed. Finally, the farmer temporarily abandoned the idea in favor of just getting the crop in the ground; he planted and flooded the crop as in his typical operation. There have also been problems with weed control and fertility (see photo).
As a result, we do not expect great results at harvest. The crop has not quite reached panicle differentiation, so some of my co-workers stayed a couple of extra days to help install and operate a chemigation unit, to apply some N fertilizer. Also, there was a crew hand-weeding the field (see photo), so nobody has completely given up. Mainly, we are using the problems experienced this year to guide our efforts toward success in 2013.
We did have a good meeting, to discuss what went wrong and begin the process of correcting the problems for next year. I think the take-home lesson here is: seldom do we succeed in our first attempt at anything. That’s why babies start learning to walk while they are still in diapers—it gives them a cushion to land on when they fall during their early attempts! So, we are not too discouraged, because we can learn and improve. However, the caveat is: we MUST learn from our mistakes.
Hand weeding field
It is said that wisdom comes with age. However, that is not necessarily true—I know some people who prove that sometimes age comes alone. So, the burden is on the team to identify and rectify the issues that led to a disappointing result this year. This project is a collaborative effort between the university, the local government and the farmer, so one of their challenges will be to establish an effective, efficient management system to improve performance. The good news is that motivated, intelligent people who work together can accomplish great things.
I have a couple of other things to attend to this week here in China, before heading home. I am helping to host some Brazilian rice researchers the first week of August, in Arkansas and Missouri. I hope to see you at our field day on August 7 near Neelyville, Missouri. 
If you have been reading these postings, introduce yourself!  Have a great week, and watch out for heat stroke!