As the agriculture sector in Guyana continues to expand, there has been added pressure to farm sustainably. Guyana has often been called the breadbasket of the Caribbean because of its strong agriculture sector and GBTI is driving this growth with agricultural loans.
One of the major crops in Guyana is rice, which is a staple food for more than half the people in the world and one of the most lucrative crops for small farmers. Unfortunately, rice production accounts for about 10 percent of global methane emission. Additionally, rice production consumes more than a third of irrigation water used in the world.
By embracing sustainable practices, rice farmers can reduce these figures while also improving their yields to boost income. Here’s what you need to know:
Creating the Right Plan Prior to Planting Rice
A sustainable approach to rice farming starts with variety selection. There are more than 40,000 types of rice available for cultivation, so choosing the right one can be overwhelming.
However, farmers will never go wrong by selecting a hybrid that has been locally adopted, especially if healthy seed is available. The best approach is to look at what is available nearby and what has the greatest yield potential rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with new varieties.
In addition, farmers should think about their crop season, including inputs and labor requirements, as they plan for planting. This way, workers can get organized and farmers will have a better idea of the resources available to them.
Once all of this has been done, the next step is actually planting the rice. There are several different approaches to planting rice. Some farmers directly seed their fields, while others may plant rice in seedbeds and transplant starts into the field.
Neither of these practices is inherently better than the other in terms of sustainability. Instead, the right choice will depend in the type of soil farmers have, as well as the local rice ecosystem. Farmers also need to consider availability of physical labor as transplanting rice is much more labor-intensive. However, transplantation may be necessary if the soil or weather conditions are not conducive to direct planting.
Managing the Issues that Arise While Growing Rice
Farmers need to plan ahead for water needs while growing rice. As mentioned above, rice cultivation accounts for much of the world’s water consumption, which is due in part to the fact that the crop is so sensitive to water shortages. Farmers have several options for reducing water needs, which will save them money while also lowering the amount of water they consume.
For examples, farmers should pay close attention to cracks or rat holes in their fields, which can result in increased water absorption. Farmers should also construct bunds. These are specialized embankments meant to keep water around the plants. Well-constructed bunds reduce water loss. Field channels further help farmers control how water flows into and out of the field. In general, farmers should only perform shallow tilling, as this will prevent water losses from soaking into the soil.
Another important issue to consider is soil fertility. Farmers can use mineral or organic fertilizers to boost the productivity of the earth they work with. However, it is important to keep in mind that organic fertilizers mimic the natural composition of soil and do not introduce new minerals to the environment. Considering the amount of water involved in rice production, minimizing mineral runoff is very important.
The other common issue farmers need to deal with is pests, which can reduce crop yields up to 40 percent. To protect their crops from pests, farmers should ensure they choose clean seed, keep their farm equipment clean, and promote the natural enemies of pests on their farms. It is also important to store rice grain properly to keep it safe from pests.
Sustainable Farming Practices During and After Harvest
When farmers utilize the best harvest practices, they can maximize their yields and thus their incomes while ensuring all the resources they used were not wasted. Farmers need to ensure they harvest at the right time. Waiting too long or not long enough will result in a reduced crop. The ideal time to harvest will depend on the type of rice planted, as well as the particular growth conditions.
While this can take some time to determine, speaking to farmers who have experience with the variety of rice you are using and learning the signs that indicate it is time to harvest can help. Keep close track of when you plant and the growth rate of the rice so you can estimate when the harvest should begin. Of course, it is important to base decisions on how plants look and not just the expected timeline.
Once the rice has been harvested, it should go through the threshing process immediately to avoid any spoilage. Threshing is the process that collects rice grains from the plant. Ideally, farmers are able to invest in a threshing machine as this is more efficient than collecting rice by hand, which can leave a lot of the grains behind.
Once the grains have been threshed, they need to be cleaned and dried immediately to avoid spoilage. While this involves a lot of work and long hours around harvest time, it ensures that as much of the crop as possible makes it to people’s plates. As mentioned above, proper storage is also important as pests and mold can quickly ruin an entire crop.