Progress Made On Center Pivot Rice Project

Progress Made On Center Pivot Rice ProjectValley Irrigation reported record yields on non-traditional rice fields in the U.S. this year with its Circles for Rice project, an initiative that is establishing benchmarks for the production of rice under center pivot irrigation.

A production ag rice field located near Sikeston, Missouri, yielded a dry weight of 195 bushels per acre of a RiceTec hybrid. This field, farmed by Patrick Hulshof, has predominately sandy loam soils and is irrigated with a 7-span Valley Center Pivot. Though this field is located in a traditional rice growing area of the country, the field’s sandy soils cannot maintain a flood.


“This is our first experience with rice,” explains Hulshof. “We had no more work in this field than we did in the corn field. We ran the pivot more, but I don’t think we put out more water than what a 200 plus bushel corn crop requires.”

In 2010, Valley 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.

Former “Rice Grower of the Year” Dennis Robison produces rice in both Missouri and Arkansas. 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 on this field, Mr. Robison produced a dry weight yield of 185 bushels per acre.

“We didn’t have any trouble with weeds. We did our normal herbicide treatment that we do on all of our flooded rice fields,” Robison comments on his experience with his field.

“It turned out very well, better than I expected.”

Throughout the 2010 growing season, Valley Irrigation collected data on traditional and non-traditional rice fields, and recorded cost savings that rice producers have experienced with center pivot irrigation* versus flood. (Note: Center pivot data was collected from 2010 Circles for Rice fields located in the USA. Flood data is from the University of Arkansas, Archie Flanders, et al., 2010 Crop Enterprise Budgets, December 2009)

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 had 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 crop protection products can be applied through the irrigation machine, growers may see a 75 percent or more difference in labor costs, and a 50 percent 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.

Valley Irrigation is currently working with several organizations and universities on this project, including: RiceTec, the University of Missouri Delta Research Center, the University of Arkansas, Agricenter International, Embrapa and Irga.

The Valley 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 pivot and linear machines continually grows.

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