Louisiana rice farmers have seemingly abundant supplies of water now, but that probably won’t always be the case, according to Scott Franklin, vice president of the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association.
“As a young person, I have to think about that,” says Franklin, a farmer who helped organize the Row Rice Production meeting in Rayville, La., last month. Franklin believes furrow-irrigated rice or row rice has the potential to save water and money – if done properly. “It’s not a perfect science – it has a long way to go,” he said. “But the potential is there.”
Although Franklin said growers may see some reduction in harvest costs because fields are not as likely to be as muddy in row rice situations as in conventional, flooded field conditions.
“I’m sure we’ve all driven by fields of conventional rice and seen the combine buried up to the axle because of field conditions at harvest,” he said. “You’re not as likely to see that in furrow-irrigated rice.”
In an interview following the meeting, Franklin said the potential for water savings may be the biggest draw for rice row.
“I think row rice has a place,” he said. “When we talk about the benefits of row rice the first thing we think about is how much water you save, and as a young person, I think it is important to think about that and have that mindset.”
Louisiana rice farmers have seemingly abundant supplies of water now, but that probably won’t always be the case. “One day there is going to be a battle for water – there’s no question about it,” he said. “It’s already going on in California; it affects the rice industry there. We have a plentiful supply, but you never know what the future’s going to hold.”
Franklin said some producers in northeast Louisiana are showing row rice can work. “We have some who have proven that it is – when you take care and follow the rules – a smarter and better way to farm rice. It’s not a perfect science, there’s still a long ways to go, but more people have had success with it than didn’t.”