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Ont. farm harvests first rice crop

Ont. farm harvests first rice crop

Researchers chose to grow the crop in Chatham-Kent because it has a similar climate to northern China

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Staff at an experimental farm in southern Ontario have harvested their first crop of medium-grain rice, which is typically used to make risotto.

The Chinese-owned Ontario Fangzheng Agriculture Enterprise brought in its harvest last month. The team first soaked the seeds in a greenhouse in April and transplanted the crop in May.

The rice came from a one-hectare (2.5 acre-) farm west of Chatham, Ont. Ontario Fangzheng Agriculture Enterprise, along with University of Guelph researchers, have worked on the project since 2016.

The farm’s total acreage is about 75 acres, but the growers only received permission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to produce rice on 2.5 acres.

The team chose to produce the rice in Chatham-Kent because it has a similar climate to northern China, has flat land and sufficient water resources.

Those people involved in the rice project are happy with how the crop turned out.

“It was very good,” John Zandstra, a professor and researcher at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, told Farms.com. “You sometimes have a sense of how a crop looks by looking in the field but, this time, we had no idea. But we were pleasantly surprised with what we harvested.”

The harvested rice will be used as seed for next year’s crop.

Growing rice was unlike any other crop Zandstra had produced before.

“It’s a fascinating crop. Planting a crop and just flooding it seemed bizarre,” he said. “It’s something we’ve never dealt with before. We learned that it’s a challenge to harvest but, really, this is all new to us.”

The next step for the growers is to increase production on the farm.

They would like to produce rice on the farm’s total acreage, but will need some regulatory approval first, Zandstra said.

“We’ve got to look south (to the U.S.) to get (crop protection) products registered for use on rice, which hopefully isn’t a big deal because lots of rice is grown in the U.S.”

The farmers will research more cost-effective ways of seeding the crop, including direct seeding or aerial applications, he said.

DigitalSoul/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

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