Dry rice the way to go

A researcher at CQ University is teaming up with a farmer for a trial to grow rice under dryland cropping conditions.

The research is an effort to use less water to feed Australia and parts of the world.

Research fellow Surya Bhattaraj is working with Alton Downs grower Peter Foxwell and says a number of trials have been done but this trial will show which varieties work best in the central Queensland region.

“We have a number of genotypes here, 13 different genotypes, some of them are more drought-tolerant and some of them are less tolerant that we confirmed in a pre-trial but here we’re looking at those characteristics again in a bigger field trial,” he told the ABC.

He said they will be examining different yields from each of the genotypes and the quality of the rice.

“The rice quality is also very important and is also very specific to the region you sell,” he said.

Crops are already growing in north Queensland and the central highlands but under irrigated conditions.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re not putting in water but we’re utilising the season of the year,” he said.

The trial aims to take advantage of existing soil moisture and seasonal rainfall pattern.

Foxwell, a farmer, said rice has the capability of being a new dry-land crop. He said management is the key.

“If you start with good reserve moisture in the soil there’s an awful lot of things you can grow,” he said.

He added that while the trials are pertinent to central Queensland, it can also have far-reaching implications for the dry-land industries. He’s confident they will find a type suited to the region and other parts of the country.

“There’s a whole range of measures that you can reduce water use and water use efficiency and part of the trial is looking at varieties that are water use efficient.”

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