Ricegrowers Limited

04/18/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/17/2017 19:01

Bumper harvest on the horizon for Riverina rice growers

The largest Riverina rice harvest in three years is underway, with leading Australian branded food company SunRice expecting more than 800,000 tonnes to be harvested - an uplift of over 200% from last year.

The largest Riverina rice harvest in three years is underway, with leading Australian branded food company SunRice expecting more than 800,000 tonnes to be harvested - an uplift of over 200% from last year.

SunRice General Manager AGS, Grower Services and Agronomic Development, Tom Howard, said this is a great result for growers, SunRice and the industry, as well as for local and international customers who value highly Australian grown rice:

'Rice's flexibility and adaptability, and the skill of growers to successfully establish a crop, despite the late start to planting due to the spring deluge, have certainly shone through this season.

'After last year's smaller than usual crop of 245,000 tonnes, as a result of lower water allocations, it's been exciting to see so many growers return to rice this year, cementing it as the summer crop of choice across the Riverina.'

The factors assisting in this year's impressive harvest included: plentiful winter and spring rains; 100% water allocations across the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys; reduced water prices - which at between $20 and $40 per megalitre, depending on the valley, have been at their most accessible in years; and favourable growing conditions of warmer days and warmer nights from mid-December to mid-February, which contributed to the excellent establishment of the crop.

The uptake of precision agriculture technologies is also enabling growers to further improve nitrogen and fertiliser application, which is cultivating increased production and greater grower returns.

SunRice's investment in research and development is also assisting growers to diversify their risk profile and maximise returns. A key R&D highlight has been the new shorter season varieties that are being commercially trialled for the first time this year - YRM70, a medium grain type and YRK5, a short grain type. These new varieties provide flexibility with planting as they can be sown three to four weeks after mainstream varieties, enabling growers to turn their late start or late water allocation into a planting opportunity. The new varieties also increase double cropping options, together with achieving greater water use efficiency, which has the potential for growers to significantly increase returns.

Mr Howard said the new varieties are encouraging growers to see the potential for rice to play a bigger role in their irrigation program.

'Having an ideal planting window up to a month after mainstream varieties opens up the opportunity to plant a rice crop after a winter crop. Growers this year have harvested canola, oats, barley, hay and even wheat, and have planted a rice crop into the same paddock within a few days. If the opportunity arises this cycle can be repeated. Within the first year this could result in a 15% - 20% increase in dollar returns per hectare and per megalitre. If this was repeated for three rice crops, per hectare returns have the potential to be 40% higher per hectare than the existing system over the period of the rotation (based on a drill sown system).'

Riverina rice grower James Salvestro, who, with his son Anthony and long-time employee Glen Bavaresco, is this year growing 50 hectares of the new YRM70, alongside 108ha of Topaz and 32ha of Sherpa, said the new variety was a 'game changer' for his property near Hanwood, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

'We've kicked off harvest and after a very cold and late start we're really pleased with the way all our rice is looking. In addition to our usual program we were able to take advantage of late water allocations and increase our rice area by planting short season rice (YRM70) after our canola. It's looking great and we're now confident to grow any winter crop, including wheat, and know we can follow it with rice. This is a real game changer for our operation.'

Harvest is expected to be complete in May.

Media inquiries: Sally Edgar, 0425 247 133, [email protected]