Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Harvest Time | by Kelly Downing

It is finally here—harvest season, when all our hard work begins to pay off. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Dean Schieffer’s field. The precise reason for my visit was to remove our soil water sensing equipment from the field, so he can harvest when he is ready. It was a good thing I got there—he cut the rice on Thursday, September 6!

Dean experienced a lot of very challenging conditions and situations this year. His yield was not excellent, but it was a little better than it could have been, considering all the tribulations. Here is a photo of the field from my visit on August 27:

rice field
You can see some major cracks in the soil, indicating extremely dry conditions. Dean experienced some equipment problems very late in the season, which caused his center pivot to get stuck. This means he was unable to water properly during the critical grain-fill period, which really affected his yield. I believe he has finally got the field, pivot, and management system set up to be more successful next year, if he chooses to try again.

Our cooperators in the Delta are in the midst of harvest, as well. Dennis Robison and Chad Price in Missouri harvested their rice last week, with good results. Again, circumstances caused some problems. The remnants of Hurricane Isaac swept through the region the weekend prior to harvest, so they had to deal with lots of lodging problems. They were very happy with their results, especially considering the storm damage. I have yet to see “official” results, but the two primary concerns seem good. First, the yield seems reasonably good. Second, the pivot yields should be very close to the yields in adjacent flooded fields. Jeremy Baltz in Arkansas has stopped irrigation, and should be able to harvest in the next few days.

The other good news is that we were able to demonstrate significant water savings. For these cooperators, we installed flow meters on each pivot and also on the adjacent flooded fields. Comparing pivot rice to its flooded companion, Jeremy saved 65% and Chad saved more than 40%. Dennis also saved more than 40% compared to flood. In addition, he had a field of furrow-irrigated rice (“row rice”), which used more water than either of the other two treatments (almost 40% more water than the flooded field). So, in his case, the pivot actually saved nearly 60% of the water required for furrow irrigation.

I am going to be out for a couple of weeks—a long-awaited vacation with my lovely bride. When I return I hope to have some final data for you, to wrap up this rice season in the Northern Hemisphere. 

I wish you a bountiful crop and safe operations. We will talk again when I get back!