Growing Rice and How EOSDA Crop Monitoring can Help

Rice, the most consumed staple food for a large part of the world's human population, particularly in Asia, is not only a symbol of culture and tradition but also a key driver of global agricultural practices. Growing rice is a meticulously managed procedure, characterized by different methods of farming, numerous varieties of the crop, and careful nurturing guidelines.

As the world grapples with mounting population pressure and climate change, modern technology has risen as a beacon of hope, offering innovative solutions to enhance the efficiency, sustainability, and resilience of rice cultivation. In this guide on how to grow rice we will discuss types of rice grown, the methods of growing it, and explain how modern technology can help with that.

Methods of Rice Farming

How is rice grown? There are primarily three methods of rice cultivation: dryland or upland rice production, rainfed lowland, and irrigated rice cultivation.

Dryland or Upland Rice Production: This method is practiced in areas where rainfall is scarce, such as on hill slopes and in drought-prone regions. The rice is typically grown in fields, similar to wheat or corn, and is reliant on rainwater. The yield in this method is usually lower, as the soil has lesser water-holding capacity.

Rainfed Lowland: Rainfed lowland rice is grown in fields that are flooded for part or all of the growing season. The water usually comes from rainfall, and the fields are equipped to hold water up to 50 centimeters deep. The unpredictability of rainfall can sometimes make this method challenging, but the yield is generally higher than upland rice.

Irrigated Rice Cultivation: The most productive method of rice growing is irrigated cultivation. It accounts for about 75% of global rice production. In this system, rice is grown on flat or slightly sloping land, and the fields are designed to hold water, which is provided through an irrigation system. This method offers a controlled environment for rice cultivation, thus leading to the highest yields.

Primary Rice Varieties

Rice varieties are multifarious, but the two major types are Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glaberrima (African rice). Oryza sativa itself has two subspecies: indica, which is traditionally grown in tropical regions, and japonica, or sinica, grown in subtropical and temperate regions.

Indica: Characterized by its long grains and high yield, indica rice includes popular varieties like Basmati and Jasmine. It is more tolerant to heat and can withstand varying water depths.

Japonica: Known for its short, sticky grains, japonica rice is commonly used in sushi and other East Asian dishes. It grows best in cooler climates and requires a consistent water depth.

Oryza Glaberrima: Known as African rice, this species is more resistant to harsh conditions such as infertile soils, drought, or pest problems, and is primarily cultivated in West Africa.

Guidelines for Caring for Rice

Growing rice is a careful balance of water, soil health, sunlight, and pest control. Here are some primary guidelines:

Water Management: Rice plants typically require a continuous supply of water for optimal growth. The field should be kept flooded until the grain begins to ripen. However, excessive or stagnant water can cause problems like root rot, so good water management is crucial.

Soil Health: Rice thrives in a well-prepared soil bed. Fields should be plowed and leveled to ensure uniform water depth. The use of organic matter and appropriate fertilizers can help to maintain the fertility of the soil.

Sunlight: Like most plants, rice requires adequate sunlight for photosynthesis. Although rice can tolerate a range of light conditions, full sunlight is ideal for maximum yield.

Pest and Disease Control: Integrated pest management, which combines biological, physical, and chemical methods, is typically employed to combat pests and diseases in rice fields. Regular monitoring and early detection can prevent significant damage to the crop.

Harvesting: Timing is crucial in harvesting rice. The grains should be harvested when they're mature – generally, when the grains have turned from green to gold, and the moisture content is around 20-25%.

Precision Agriculture and Rice Cultivation

Precision agriculture, also known as site-specific crop management, harnesses advanced technology to manage crop variation within fields. This technology-centric approach to farming incorporates GPS, remote sensing, and on-ground sensors to monitor field conditions, allowing farmers to adjust strategies for fertilization, irrigation, and pest control, enhancing crop productivity while reducing environmental footprints.

For instance, artificial satellites equipped with multi-spectral imaging sensors enable real-time monitoring of rice health. These aerial machines capture data that can detect crop stress, nutrient deficiencies, or pest and disease outbreaks even before they become visually apparent. This early detection facilitates timely intervention, reducing yield loss and environmental impact from excessive use of agrochemicals.

In the era of smartphones and the internet, digital extension services are transforming the way farmers access knowledge and support. Mobile apps, online platforms, and SMS services deliver real-time weather forecasts, market prices, and expert advice straight into the hands of farmers. This immediate access to information empowers farmers to make timely, data-driven decisions, enhancing productivity and profitability.

Growing Rice with EOSDA Crop Monitoring

Climate change is a major cause of drought, air and soil temperature changes, and saltwater getting into the rice growing field, which severely complicates the process of growing this crop. Luckily, EOSDA Crop Monitoring and other precision farming technologies help producers make data-driven decisions to address issues on the field.

For instance, one of the biggest issues farmers encounter is water management, which is especially critical with rice. Over 70% of the world's freshwater withdrawals go towards agriculture, with rice cultivation being a significant contributor due to its traditionally water-intensive nature.

EOSDA Crop Monitoring enables tracking crop water requirements based on the NDMI index — a measure of how well-hydrated a growing plant is. More so, the platform allows crop producers and field managers to assess root zone and surface soil moisture data to evaluate its impact on vegetation indices, including NDVI, NDRE, and MSAVI.

EOSDA Crop Monitoring also helps to use fertilizers and other agrochemicals with precision. Creating a zoned field map, growers can alter their fertilizing plan according to the needs of each specific rice growing area, while saving money on inputs and increasing farm sustainability.

Apart from that, growers can easily detect potential issues in their rice fields by using the scouting app provided by the platform. Assessing vegetation maps before setting a scouting task enables farmers to locate problem field areas that need further inspection and assign tasks to scouts online. The scouts will see the exact area that needs attention and form an online report when the inspection is done.

Read also: How to Start Rice Production Business in Nigeria

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