Small Farm Rice ProductionJuan Aldaz
Rice production is on the rise in many areas of Africa and other regions of the equatorial belt, specially small farm rice production. Many farms in these areas working with small plots of land may hold promise for the use of compact tractors in producing a successful rice crop.
In order to contain the water that will be flooded or irrigated into the paddy, the building of dams or bunds around the field is imperative.
Rice Management – Preparing the Soil
There are two methods used for preparing the soil, dry soil preparation and wet soil preparation:
Dry soil preparation
Usually practiced on upland rice can be done on low land fields if conditions exist to allow for it. A well established hardpan is imperative. It does have advantages including aerating the soil, requires less water, and does reduce some of the mollusk pests associated with rice production. Soils are not puddled, nor is there standing water in the field.
Dry soil preparation helps to smooth the soil more, and helps to incorporate residues, fertilizer, and other amendments into the soil. If labor and water are scarce, dry preparation may be more efficient. The shorter season also allows for faster turnaround of the crop.
Wet Soil Preparation
With wet preparation, it’s important to be able to till, level, and prepare while the field has water in it. Specialized floaters, grading, and other levelling equipment is needed, and tractors equipped with the proper tires is important.
Mechanizing Some or All of the Harvesting
More systems for using machines to assist with harvesting are evolving, both from ingenuity of the farmer or local mechanic; and those being built by equipment manufacturers across the world. Modified corn combines imported from the US and re-oriented for rice production is on the rise in many areas
Group buying and custom operators are springing up in many areas where small farms are producing rice, allowing for greater efficiencies relating to the farmer’s costs of production.
Cutting and Bundling
Small machines can be modified so as to utilize specialty attachments in the harvesting process.
A modified tractor, set up to mount a rice cutter on the front, driven by an additional Power Take Off shaft. In the rear, a rototiller firms and levels the ground behind the tractor.
Once cut and gathered, a mechanical thresher extracts the grain from the crop and leaves the straw for baling.
Many machines are available to assist and save labor in small plot rice production.
There are several sites you can review to learn more about rice production, whether small scale labor intensive, or mechanized at some level: