Farmers find more flexibility and lower costs through row rice

Growing rice in rows, similar to how corn or soybeans are grown, is becoming more of a common practice in northeast Louisiana. As LSU AgCenter’s Craig Gautreaux explains, this technique gives farmers some flexibility and lowers water usage.

The technical name is furrow-irrigated rice, but it is more commonly known as row rice. It is a farming practice that is growing in popularity across northeast Louisiana.

“I think we’ve seen our acreage increase, a steady increase of 5 to 10 percent a year, for the past five to six years,” according to LSU AgCenter agent, Bruce Garner.

Row rice has several advantages, because it is grown in fields similar to corn and soybeans, a grower has some flexibility to choose between three crops based on economic conditions at planting. It also requires less water than paddy rice.

“When you think about rice, you usually think about flood,” Garner adds. “When you think about the amount of water we put into it, if we can decrease that by 28 percent, so we’re showing a savings on our water, our pumping costs, even from surface water.”

Jason Waller farms 2,200 acres of rice, nearly all of it row rice. He sees little difference in yields between the two techniques, and row rice actually takes less effort.

“The yield was practically the same, but it was so much easier to grow row rice, and not that, when we get done harvesting, we didn’t have to tear levees down,” Waller states.

After four years of growing row rice, Waller is learning more about the practice each time. His experience is allowing him to avoid the pitfalls from previous growing seasons.

“We really don’t want a high row. High rows in a field can be disastrous, especially if you get lodging and rice goes down between the rows,” he notes. “You can hardly get it out of those rows.”

Both Garner and Waller said hybrid rice lines have been more successful than conventional varieties in row rice applications.