Darrell Fiddler awarded SunRice C21 Grower of the Year


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Congratulations to C21 SunRice Grower of the Year Darrell Fiddler, Farm Manager for DeBortoli Wines, Bilbul NSW.

Darrell was awarded SunRice Grower of the Year at the annual 2021 Rice Industry Awards hosted by Rice Extension. The whole of industry initiative is designed to showcase the best in the rice growing business and highlight innovation in production and irrigation methods, as well as in water efficiency.

Rice Extension Officer Harriet Brickhill said, “Darrell’s innovative approach to farming and a commitment to sustainability caught the judges’ attention.  He grows rice as a part of a rotation with other irrigated summer crops and winter cereals and has demonstrated a strong focus on improving his water productivity through management having successfully automated the irrigation for a Viand crop in C21.”

Darrell attributes the operation’s strong yields, productivity and sustainability to improved agronomy practices. These include variable rate fertiliser application, sod sowing and minimal tillage, double or triple cropping, and implementing a rotation including wheat and other summer crops.

Using permanent tracks for spraying and spreading of fertilizer means that we can be really timely and efficient.  Being on time with all of our operations is very important for rice, and planning is key to that timeliness.

Darrell expressed his appreciation on being awarded the title.

“I’ve always motivated by the phrase “Always strive to do better” and winning this award is a humbling experience because it’s industry recognition of all the hard work myself and the team have put into the farming operations over the last 12 years.

“We tend to just get on with the job, so it has been a great opportunity to stop and reflect on our operation and feedback from the judges has been valuable.

Harriet noted that Darrell has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in all aspects of rice growing.

Darrell has adopted numerous practices to increase water efficiency including the aerobic rice trial with Deakin University 2021 which involves automation and moisture monitoring to optimise water use efficiency. He has also delayed permanent water since 2012 which has reduced his water use by 30% compared to his aerial sown crops.

“We have very much appreciated the support of Matt Champness of Deakin Uni in working with us to successfully implement automation and help us achieve excellent water efficiencies – maximising ‘crop per drop’, said Darrell.

A SunRice Grower of the Year Field Day will be held on Thursday, 9 December at Bilbul to showcase Darrell’s farming practices.

The two other finalists in this category, Michael and Belinda Gorey, Moulamein, and Sara and Daryl Hall, Moulamein, also very much impressed the judges and are to be congratulated.

The C21 SunRice Grower of The Year Award was judged by a panel of three including two industry representatives and one independent judge. The panel assessed applications based on eight key areas including: production and agronomy, water use efficiency, innovation and technology, business management, sustainability, work health and safety, and industry and community involvement.

The SunRice Grower of the Year winner receives an impressive package to further support to their business, including $2500 to be spent on personal or business development and nomination for the Australian Farmer of the Year Award (Kondinin Group).

Highest Yield and Special mentions:

The other winners in the Awards included four growers who each yielded over 13.7t/ha across their whole farm business. These results were no accident as they were achieved by exceptional managers who sowed on time and did everything right to pull off a great yield even in tough conditions where we experienced cold conditions during the growing season.

Winners of the Highest Yield Award were Nathan and Kylie Ceccato, Yenda with a yield of 13.95t/ha for their Reiziq crop over 99ha. This represents a lift of 18% over the long-term average for the MIA.

They were closely followed by four other exceptional growers, with less than 0.2t/ha separating the yields:

  • Guiseppe and Katie Napoli, Leeton grew a 13.93t/ha Reiziq crop over 70ha
  • Phil, Rosanna Atkinson and Jim and Lyn Atkinson, Yenda grew a 13.85t/ha Reiziq crop over 187ha
  • Raymond and Maria McCaw, Finley grew a 13.8t/ha Reiziq crop over 36ha
  • Ian and Sheree Parisotto, Yenda grew a 13.78t/ha Reiziq crop over 69ha

It must be noted that the McCaw’s results are exceptional given the crop was grown in the Eastern Murray Valley, which has historically lower yield potential. In fact, the McCaw’s crop yielded 142% above the long-term average for the area.

Grower of the Year finalists Belinda and Michael Gorey also yielded 13.3t/ha of Reiziq across an area of 118ha, representing an increase of 129% over long-term average for the Western Murray Valley.

This year we saw the potential of the new variety VO71, which as it has yet to be released, were not included in the formal Awards but Andrew Cameron, Wilbriggie managed a yield of over 15t/ha.

The RGA Honorary Councillor award was also presented last night to David Brain of Coleambally. The Honorary Councillor award recognises an exceptional positive and ongoing contribution to the Australian Rice Industry with nominees demonstrating a commitment to the rice industry through outstanding service or leadership over a period of ten years or more.

David is a second-generation rice grower and has had a long association with the industry, delivering the first crop of this own in 1978. He has been an active long-standing member of Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia and joined the Coleambally Branch in 1979, holding the President’s position for 12 years.

Harriet acknowledged those organisations who have partnered with Rice Extension to deliver the Awards including: SunRice; Port of Melbourne Corteva Agriscience; Padman Stops; Rice Marketing Board for the state of New South Wales; Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia; Deakin University, Field Air Finley and Yenda Producers Co-operative.

“We greatly appreciate the involvement our sponsorship partners, without these organisations demonstrating their support and commitment to the rice industry, we would not be able to run these important Awards.

“All the finalists in the Awards receive feedback from the process so it becomes a learning process for themselves while they share their knowledge to others. We really encourage growers to consider nominating for the 2021 Awards,” said Harriet.

Related resources

Growing rice with less water and labour

SunRice C20 Grower of the Year announced – Peter and Erin Draper

SunRice Grower of the Year has a passion for learning and innovation

Rice Industry Awards SunRice Grower of the Year 

SunRice Grower of the Year operation opens for visitors


Rice Extension is funded by rice growers and the Australian Government through AgriFutures Australia. Rice Extension supports the adoption of innovation, and research and development outcomes in the Australian rice industry.

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