A welcome return to ‘Old Coree’ for the 2021 Rice Industry Field Day


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Welcoming the return of in-person events,  rice growers and industry came together for the annual Rice Industry Field Day at Rice Research Australia, ‘Old Coree’, near Jerilderie on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

This year’s theme for the annual field day was Rice Innovation: restacking the shelves – a nod to the demand for rice as one of the first staple foods food retailers restricted in response to panic buying, 2021’s promising outlook, and the industry’s focus on innovation to ensure the industry remains a competitive user of farm business resources.

Reflecting on the season and the annual event, Rice Extension Coordinator Troy Mauger was enthusiastic about the prospects and was pleased to see such a great turn out.

“It’s a busy season and we’re really pleased so many growers were able to make the time to get off the farm and to bring the industry together.”

From RD&E to marketing and everything in between, growers heard from AgriFutures Australia on the future of the Rice Program, and how it’s approaching RD&E to ensure it delivers returns on the rice research and development levy for growers. Plus, SunRice presented on what the Riverina Sustainability Framework means for rice growers, the current season, the broader business, and future outlook.

AgriFutures Rice Advisory Panel Chair and rice grower Drew Braithwaite updated growers on the AgriFutures Rice Program’s RD&E investments and the future of the program.

“Rice growers have made a huge commitment to innovation, we have a massive responsibility and opportunity to ensure that the growers’ levies are invested wisely and we deliver value on return on that increase. There is an opportunity to transform the rice industry and to work with SunRice, the Ricegrowers Association of Australia, growers and researchers to meet the industry’s ambitious water productivity target of 1.5 tonne per megalitre of water.”

SunRice Group Chairman Laurie Arthur reinforced the industry’s collaborative approach and commitment to invest in research, development and extension that supports rice production and growers, and spoke to the increased production in the Riverina.

“After two extremely difficult years for Riverina rice production – driven by low water availability, extremely high water prices and the impacts of water reform – it’s pleasing to see an improvement in conditions and an increase in rice production,” Mr Arthur said.

“Harvesting has already started on a crop estimated to be more than 450,000 paddy tonnes – which is some 10 times the size of the 2020 crop, the second-lowest on record.”

“411 growers have planted rice across 674 farms, with some 44,000 hectares planted in the Murrumbidgee, Coleambally and Murray valleys.”

“SunRice has 11 receival and storage sites open through its Australian Grain Storage subsidiary, and we’ve already seen some deliveries start with growers who have started harvesting around Griffith.”

“The fact growers have returned to rice production shows that it is a perfect fit for the farming systems in the Riverina – and that when growers have improved water availability they can increase production.”

“SunRice is hiring additional employees across its Riverina operations to process the increased crop into value-added high-value branded products, which will be sold to customers and consumers in Australia and many of our approximately 50 global markets.”

In the field, the Department of Primary Industries updated growers on their research investigating slow-release fertilisers to improve drill sown rice yields, some of the new rice varieties in the pipeline, the best agronomic management for our major varieties, and the preliminary findings of the commercial remote sensing NDRE imagery trial.

Other drawcards were Deakin University’s Assoc Professor John Hornbuckle on smart irrigation control for water and labour savings for rice systems and the possibility of controlling rice crop water levels from the beach or favourite holiday destination. Also, Malcolm Taylor shared his findings on the effects of residual winter cropping herbicides on rice establishment and yields.

The C21 Rice Industry Awards were also launched at the Field Day. Rice Extension Officer Harriet Brickhill kicked off the awards and challenged growers to nominate the person next to them or across the fence.

“Growers are typically pretty humble and so it’s sometimes a tough ask to get them to put up their own hand. We have a bumper number of growers this year and we really want to see growers acknowledging their peers that are doing great things for the industry.”

For more information and details on how to make a nomination visit https://riceextension.org.au/rice-industry-awards

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