How organic rice is farmed in California is a question I get a lot.
I’m actually here at an organic rice farm right now and I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine and a real life organic rice farmer Mr. Tom Knowles. I’m a third generation farmer from Willows, CA and I grow 70 acres of organic rice. So let’s go check out the rice!
Well it’s a beautiful looking field we got behind us guys and Tom I’m going to assume the ground work is going to be very similar to what my audience has already seen in my videos before whether that’s chiseling, discing, land planting. Probably the first difference in a organic field is probably going to be the nitrogen application. Can you talk a little bit about that? Yes in an organic environment, we can’t use synthetic fertilizers so our fertilizer of choice is chicken manure. Anywhere from 4 to 6 tons to the acre which is quite a lot of chicken manure but it takes a lot of nitrogen to make this rice grow to its full potential.
Ok, so Tom the chicken manure is applied to the surface of the ground correct? Yes, and then do you use a disk to lightly incorporate that in? Right we’ll use a light disk, just to bring it into the soil, get it under the ground so it won’t float away. Ok, then the field is flooded with water of course. The seed is flown on. Correct, and then I guess the next step would be pest management, like weeds for example. Correct, that’s our biggest challenge is the weeds that are going to grow up with the rice, our main cultural practice is to run the water very deep. The rice can grow through up to 12 inches of water and most of the weeds that compete with the rice are unable able to grow through that depth of water and so what you’re seeing out here is the water has been recently brought down and most of the weeds have failed to germinate and we have a pretty good stand of rice out here in this rice field.
What about mid season weed control like your sedges and Duck Salad, how can you combat against that? If we have a situation where they’re coming on strong, the only real option we have would be to dry the field up, take all of the water off the field. The rice has the ability to withstand drought better than those weeds. The field looks like it’s about to die but at the last minute we can bring the water back and the rice will recover and the weeds which are not as drought tolerant will not recover.
I would rather attack the situation culturally from the year before and we do that by rotating fields in and out to try and keep the weed populations down. Ok, so you’ll take rice out of production one year just to control weeds. Correct, we will on this farm only plant rice one year and then we’ll rotate the field out of production and on a every other year basis. And so you then must have a field out of rotation then right now right? Oh ya, oh let’s go take a look. Ok.
So Tom you mentioned that you leave fields out of production in order to combat weed pressure, this field behind us here has been left out for how long? This field was in production last year and it’s being left out this year and as you can see it still has a lot of aquatic weeds that have tried to grow but now they’re all starting to die because there’s no water for them and hopefully that will reduce the amount of aquatic weed seed for next time we plant.
This field over here was going to be planted this year but we decided not to plant it. As you can see it has a whole different species of weeds in it. These are weeds upland that grow in a dry-land condition, so we don’t see hardly any aquatic type weeds in it, so it’s ready to get back into production next year.
I don’t know if you guys out there in the internet can hear this but the birds are chirping so this certainly does provide a very nice environment or habitat for all kinds of species, birds. What other kind of animals are you getting here? Oh we see all types of rabbits, and nesting ducks, pheasants, even in the trees over there you’ll see deer and we even have antelope that graze out here.
Tom thank you very much for the tour of the rice fields. What I learned about organic farming today was high water to kill those early weeds, totally dry out the field to kill off the mid season weeds and I assume that harvest is just the same cutting rice right? Ya, it basically the same thing, we just have a lot more weeds that we harvest with our rice. Cool, and hey can we get on top of the drying bins and take a view.
Well guys I hope you learned a little bit about how organic rice is farmed here in California, I know I certainly did. Thank you to Mr. Tom Knowles for showing us around your farm, I really appreciate that!
I thought that was a pretty good harvester.
If there’s any questions, please leave them down in the comment section. Otherwise, you guys have a great day and please give me a thumbs up if you enjoyed this video and as always please subscribe to stay updated with new videos.