Drain, rice fields drain! Putting in the hard work to get the water off the rice fields so that we can start harvesting. Timing is everything as we calculate optimal harvest moisture of the rice, looking not to cut in the mud.
You hear that? That’s the sound of a rice field draining!
Today was a long day, physically exhausting, taxing but very productive. We got a lot done. We’re starting to drain the rice fields.
Let me first explain the anatomy of a rice field.
This is a rice field. A 150 acre rice field. Divided into checks for water management. At each end of the checks are rice boxes allowing us to control the flow of flood water. The rice field has a slight grade from check to check with an intake riser at the high side of the field and a drain riser at the low side. In the spring, before planting we added toe-ditches, helping a speedy flood and now at the end of summer a speedy drain. The toe-ditches connect the rice boxes to each other and meet at the drain riser.
This is a drain riser!
And now what it takes to drain a rice field.
We need to clean the mud and vegetation out of the rice boxes and the toe ditch so that once we pull the boards a steady, fast flow of water moves through the field and out the drain riser.
Deciding when to drain a rice field is one of the most crucial decisions a rice farmer has to make. The ultimate goal is achieving optimal harvest moisture of the rice, 19-20%. Too high of a moisture and your drying expenses will increase because we aim to store the rice at 14% moisture. At harvest, too low of a moisture and your quality is jeopardized as overly dry kernels can break during cutting, especially as it’s being processed through the combine. That takes a hit to the profit as well because we are paid based on quality, largely on whole kernels.
Calculating when to drain for optimal harvest moisture follows three main approaches:
- Visual inspection as you saw in last episode, Milking the Rice.
- Past experience with a particular field, knowing its ins and outs.
- How many days old and variety of the rice. For example this field was planted with m206, a medium grain variety which should be at optimal harvest moisture at 142 days after seeding.
Our goal is to have these fields dry enough for heavy equipment, harvesting at optimal harvest moisture.
Of course there are some variables that affect any calculation. Most notably weather. Draining in August, with longer hotter days, moves along faster than September with shorter, cooler days with the potential of rain.
Either way it going to be a busy week. We’ve got 12 boxes per field about and several rice fields.
Now I’ve got to take these hip-boots off.