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Rice Growing 101: Preparing for Harvest

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Watching the rice varieties develop, the colour changes are always amazing as the plant stems "head up" with grainy bloom and then hang heavily as the seed fills.

On September 11, the varieties (Khudwani on left, Hayayuki on right) are even more distinct.

Hayayuki is beginning to droop; it was planted a week later than Khudwani, but should take only 105 days to mature. Khudwani is still very upright (seeds not yet heavy), and probably will take 120 days to mature. The foliage of both varieties is browning; a sign that the plants have stopped growing. We will drain the paddies to help the plants finish (if it ever stops raining in this, our hurricane season, which feels more like monsoon weather).

When to harvest?

These varieties are short-season adapted, so should be ready for harvest 105-120 days after transplanting. That will put us within the first two weeks of October. We want to give interested folks an opportunity to see the harvesting and drying process to complete our Rice 101 series. The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security is generously helping us promote a field day event for this on Saturday, October 14th from 2:30-5:00 pm (rain date October 21st). We will be using our miniature rice combine to harvest the large paddy, but you can try your hand at harvesting a small trial plot with a sickle. Then we will show you how to dry the harvest for long-term storage. Demonstrations will include polishing rice seed for consumption.

Trialing new rice varieties and selecting for desirable traits

We regularly trial new rice varieties, always seeking improved diversity and resilience. As with any plant grown for the edible dry seed, if you succeed in collecting good seed, that seed represents a plant fairly well-adaped to your growing environment. The simplest way to shift your favourite plants more and more toward what you want is to collect, for replanting, the seeds from plants with the traits you like best (size, shape, productivity, colour, etc.). It helps if you collect seed from a sizeable population (maybe 20+ plants) so that your seed has a healthy genetic mix, but you can start with a single, unique plant that begs to be grown out. [You never know your luck!]

This year we trialed two varieties. "Yukimochi" is a sweet rice variety different from any we have, so we thought it might be interesting. The seed we purchased germinated slowly, grew poorly, looked stunted and pale. Even after transplanting it never caught up to the other rice plants, developing seed at only 20 cm tall. Our best guess for this poor result is that the seed was old and barely viable. But the seed from these fresh plants may well be productive, so we will try growing them next year to see if Yukimochi rice is something we want to add to our collection of edibles.

The second variety we trialed was seed from a single, special plant. We noticed this mutant plant during harvest of several odd plants from germination tests in 2021 as a super strong, beautiful and well-developed specimen. We cut it for display and it lived in a vase for two years. Dusty from exposure, the seed was still so big and fat, we thought we would see if the seed was still viable. When it germinated at 100%, we decided to plant it as Nikian 21.

The plants from Nikian 21 seeds are very strong and variable, demonstrating great genetic diversity that may be useful to work with for the next several growing seasons. Maybe we have something special here!

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