Rice seedling






All pictures courtesy of Ben Falk
Ripe panicle with
              grain
Paddies at sunset

We hosted a rice panel discussion on February 26, 2013, at the University of Vermont. The event attracted participants from various sectors, including the local farming community, the University of Vermont, US Fish and Wildlife, and the Vermont Land Trust.

Rice farmers Erik Andrus (Boundbrook Farm), Ben Falk (Whole Systems Design Research Farm), Josh Brill (Breezy Meadows Orchard and Nursery), and Sjon and Elysha Welters (Center for Natural Living) were members of our panel. The panel discussion, followed by questions from the audience, summarized the rice farming activities on each farm over the last few years. Each member of the audience received a summary sheet with rice data and farmer contact information. Sjon and Elysha provided small packets (~5g) of rice seed for participants to take with them for free.

After the panel discussion, we all broke into 3 small groups for round-table discussions. There were 3 major questions guiding the interactive session: (1) Who are you, and why are you interested in rice farming?, (2) What are the opportunities for growing rice and how can we exploit them?, and (3) What are the challenges and how can we meet them?

If you would like to receive detailed notes from the panel and round-table discussions, please email me at lhill@uvm.edu.

Rice flyer

My current research in sustainable agriculture focuses on the future of growing rice (Oryza sativa) in cold climates, such as the Northeast. This research is funded by the USDA's Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Partnership Grant. My farmer collaborators are Ben Falk, M.A.L.D., owner of Whole Systems Design Research Farm in Moretown VT and John Maeck, owner of JM Plants and Produce Farm in Shelburne VT. 

Rice is an uncommon grain crop in the northeastern US, even with the availability of cold-hardy varieties and the abundance of freshwater resources. Thus, this important grain that feeds 3 billion people worldwide must be imported, although there is an opportunity to grow rice locally. 
Rice paddies are constructed wetlands that can mitigate the effects of severe weather events, such as flooding and excess soil and nutrient run-off, while increasing on-farm biodiversity. 

We will study how variable water availability affects rice plant vigor, survival, panicle formation, maturation date, and total grain yield of 4 temperate rice strains (Hayayuki bred in Hokkaido, Japan, Matsumae bred in Hokkaido, Japan, Akitakomachi bred in Akita, Japan, and M202 bred in California) during the 2012 season.  The project results will inform northeastern farmers how to utilize subprime agricultural land (i.e., on dairy farms) to grow r
ice and increase farm income in a changing climate.

Interested in growing rice? Read the Rice Growing Manual prepared by southern Vermont rice farmers Takeshi and Linda Akaogi.  Also, view this informative video on diversified and regenerative farming at Whole Systems Design.

Rice links:
International Rice Research Institute
Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center (seed orders can be placed here)
Whole Systems Design Rice Paddy Agriculture