Rice is one of the most important staple foods across the globe. More than 3.5 billion people consume rice as the primary source of energy. Being a staple food for half of the world’s population, rice plays a vital role in global food security. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure sustainable growth in the rice yield rate.
The data from the Food and Agriculture Organization shows that rice yield has high variability across countries and regions. The same goes for the United States, which produces around 2% of the total global production. According to Statista, per acre harvested rice yield in the USA has raised to 7,709 pounds in 2021. This is an improvement from 7,473 pounds per acre in 2019. But this does not mean that the country has a steady rice yield rate.
That’s why awareness of the critical factors that affect rice yield is essential. This includes soil properties, climate or weather conditions, and the variety of seeds as well as diseases and insects. These are the factors that can limit rice production and impact its yield rate. So now, let’s explore these elements in detail and see how farmers can boost the rice yield rate.
Common challenges faced by rice farmers
One must know about the obstacles that hinder rice production to improve the overall yield. Therefore, we have listed the major hurdles that rice farmers are facing.
Agriculture and crops have a direct relation to weather conditions. Unfortunately, the global climate is changing, affecting crop yields. Some of the significant changes in weather conditions include flood risks, water shortages, and temperature variations. A slight change in these weather conditions makes it hard for farmers to maintain their rice yield rate.
Rice is a paddy crop and requires a high amount of water. The major states that produce rice in the USA are Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, California, and Arkansas. Farmers in these regions often face water availability issues, especially in California. It’s challenging to allocate water for rice when a region is subjected to drought. And when farmers don’t get sufficient water to grow rice, the average yield rate decreases.
Common rice diseases
There are several bacterial and fungal diseases that prey on rice crops. The major rice diseases in the United States include:
- Fungal disease blast
- Sheath blight
- Stem rot
- Brown spot
In addition, some other diseases can affect rice yield. Some of the most prominent ones are scald, scab, and leaf smut.
Common rice insects
There are a number of pests and insects that cause damage to rice fields. Some common rice pests are:
- Mole crickets
- Rice mealybugs
- Rice gall midge
- Rice case worm
- Rice bugs
- Rice water weevil
In addition to these factors, birds and weeds also make an impact on rice production. This is because birds feed on rice seeds, whereas weeds limit rice growth by absorbing nutrients.
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How farmers can achieve higher rice yield
Farmers can improve their rice yield despite climatic challenges by following the best agricultural practices. These include soil management, weeding, and the choice of rice seeds. Let’s discuss some of the most crucial agronomic practices to improve rice yield.
Check nutritional value throughout fields
We know soil testing is crucial to ensure the nutritional value of soil. But when you are doing soil testing, focus on the whole field, not just one part of it. This simply means that you should evaluate nutrients throughout the fields. You cannot expect to have a higher rice yield if your land doesn’t have consistent nutrients.
You need to ensure your fields have a sufficient amount of macro and micronutrients. These include nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur for the rice crop. Micro-nutrients include copper, boron, manganese, chlorine, zinc, iron, molybdenum, hydrogen, and carbon.
Level your fields
Field leveling is an essential agronomic practice when it comes to rice production. A well-leveled field makes it easy for seeds to establish and facilitate water flow. So, make sure your fields are properly leveled and titled before you start sowing. A leveled field improves the rice yield and consumes less water.
Do soil testing
The very first step to take before planting rice seeds is soil testing. A soil test can give you a better idea of soil health and nutrients. This can help you understand the nutritional value of the field and what you have to do to improve it. Thus, soil testing allows you to utilize fertilizer efficiently and lets you deal with nutrition deficiencies.
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Ensure proper drainage
Rice is a paddy crop that grows in water and requires water exchange. This helps in keeping the pests away while preventing fungal development. So, to maintain crop health, you must ensure proper drainage.
Focus on seed quality
The seed quality is a vital element that you cannot overlook. You should choose a variety of seed that is of high quality and has:
- Resistance to diseases and stress
- Minimal re-planting requirements
- A higher percentage of emerging rice plants
- Consistent and uniform rice maturation
- Increased crop growth rates
Pay attention to sowing
The sowing timeline for the rice crop varies from region to region. But you must keep in mind that the rice seeds take more time to grow. That’s why agriculturists recommend planting seeds earlier in the season. Also, you should offer more space to grow pre-germinated seeds. This will give more space for root growth and the crop will be able to absorb nutrients.
Utilize best weeding practices
We have discussed how weeds can inhibit rice crop yield. However, by taking precautions, you can prevent the damage that weeds can cause. Integrating effective weeding practices includes choosing a certified variety of seeds and properly cleaned equipment. Moreover, eliminating rice weeds around the fields and in neighboring areas can help prevent weed development.
Another way to prevent weeding is to properly level your fields before sowing. We know that exposed soil, especially the top surface, contains many nutrients. So, you can also stop weeds from growing by upholding high water management standards.
Monitor your crop closely
Like every crop, rice fields need attention and you should keep an eye on them. Monitoring will allow you to identify any abnormalities, and you’ll be able to notice crop health problems early. Also, monitoring rice fields will provide you with a better chance to prevent pests. In addition, you will be able to identify illnesses and diseases in the early stages. This, in turn, will allow you to take necessary measures and precautionary steps to ensure a good crop yield.
In case you missed it: Rice Farming Information Guide
Keep the birds away
Birds, if not kept away, can severely damage the rice crop. They can chew rice grains, and can be a cause of unfilled panicles or whiteheads. That’s why you must pay special attention to preventing bird damage. You can employ several techniques to keep the birds away. The best way is to use seed repellent to keep the rice crop safe. You can also use chemical repellents, noisemakers, decoy birds, and netting to stop birds.
Achieving a high rice yield rate requires effort and the best agricultural practices. You should start with soil testing and properly level your soil before sowing. The choice of seed variety is also crucial as it can impact the overall rice yield. To ensure a higher yield, you should also take preventive measures against diseases. You can follow the integrated pest management (IPM) technique to deal with weeds, insects, and pests.
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