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Investigating the potential for growing rice in Ont.

Investigating the potential for growing rice in Ont.

In 2019, farm staff harvested a 2.5-acre experimental rice plot in Chatham-Kent, where clay soils could allow for more production of the crop in the future

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Farmers around the world plant between 370 and 495 million acres of rice each year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This past year, an extra 2.5 acres were grown in Chatham, Ontario.

Wendy Zhang is a University of Guelph alumnus with a master’s degree in plant agriculture, and is project and farm manager of Ontario FangZheng Agriculture Enterprise Inc., where the rice trial was grown.

“My family in China are all doing business or farming that relate to rice production. I used to joke with my high-school teacher that I would grow rice in Canada one day,” Zhang told Farms.com.

She was eager to take on the challenge.

“Rice is a crop I know the most and I like the challenges of growing a new crop here. I felt so stressed during the crop season but when I harvested the crop, I was filled with happiness and satisfaction,” she said.

Wendy Zhang in rice field

Wendy Zhang says she hopes more rice will be grown in Canada in the future. 

The team at FangZheng Agriculture Enterprise Inc. used Chinese and American rice-growing systems as an agronomic guide to developing a management strategy.

“We are using the most modern rice-production technology in China as a reference. We made some modifications according to the specific situations here. We also combine the production in China and the U.S. to find out the solution for Canada. However, the rice that grows in the U.S. is very different from what we can grow here,” Zhang explained.

“We started transplanting in mid-May and harvested in early October. Planting and harvesting date really depends on weather and plant status. We are still collecting data for pest control and other chemical uses. The new environment will affect the plant’s requirements of these chemicals,” she added.

flooded rice

The team at FangZheng Agriculture Enterprise Inc. pumped water to cover the field.

For more information on production details, see Farms.com previous coverage here.

At this stage, the team hasn’t yet confirmed how they will sell Canadian rice, but think that there is promise in multiple markets.

“We are targeting both the domestic and Chinese markets,” Zhang said.

This year’s trial was a promising start for Zhang and other stakeholders interested in future rice production in Ontario. The crop yielded about 158 bushels of rice, Zhang said.

“This is a good yield of rice and we have the confidence to increase the yield by using proper machines to harvest it and improve our production method,” she added.

Rice may provide an option for growers who have clay or heavy clay soils, which makes growing crops susceptible to flooding or waterlogging difficult.

“We had a one-hectare (2.5-acre) research trial last year. Rice prefers soil which is clay, or loam clay. It can grow in the heavy clay as well, but the yield may be affected,” Zhang explained.

“I believe rice will be a good option for farmers who want more income and have heavy soil that is not good for other crops. Rice production in the U.S. started with one acre and now it is the fourth biggest crop. We wish one day it can happen in Canada.”

Wendy Zhang photo

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