Transplanting the rice seedlings becomes an exercise in teamwork and balance, awareness of the environment (gridlines and a giant snapping turtle!) and how to move in mud. Our volunteers are becoming pros! Thanks to all who helped over three planting sessions: Lyndell Findlay, Jean Johnston, Karen Jones, Elsebeth Olshefsky, Ashlea Viola, Natalie Walker, and Paul Olshefsky (apologies from the photographer who was too muddy to take photos consistently). It just feels great to have the paddies planted! YEAH!
Now we can watch the seedlings grow and develop and monitor their progress. We are conducting a couple of experiments this summer and have segmented the two paddies and planted accordingly. The west paddy is planted in the Hayayuki variety and this is further divided into seedlings that were treated differently at the sowing stage: sowed in 128-cell plug trays or the same amount of seed in open flats. We evaluated the difference in seedlings as we extracted them from the trays and flats to see if there was better root development in one or the other.
Plugs pop out easily, but the open flat seedlings also came apart well (we initially washed off the roots of the latter, but found this extra step was not needed).
Initial assessment suggests that the open flat sowing produces stronger seedlings which are easier to transplant because of the large root mass that settles well into the mud. However, all seedlings are compromised if weeds compete, and this seems the most significant factor in seedling development. Lesson learned: keep those seedlings WEED FREE!
Over the summer we will see if there is any difference in development. Similarly we divided the east paddy and planted with the Khudwani variety separated into plug and "unplugged" seedlings.
We found that it's generally most efficient to separate the seedlings into flotable trays and remove any weeds before entering the paddies to plant them. Always we are trying to improve on methodology and really value input from our volunteers. Every year it gets better!
The secong experiment being conducted is one to assess the importance (production-wise) of keeping the paddies fully flooded. To this end we have divided the west paddy (on the right) into half with a berm so that we can separately dry down the northwest section and grow this portion of Hayayuki with much less water. While we now are getting plenty of rain, May was extremely dry and reminded us that we must use our water resources judiciously. Less paddy flooding over the summer would also mean less methane produce in this anaerobic environment. We will undertake weekly assessments to compare the effects of these different treatments. And, ultimately, the harvest will indicate what works best.
Finally, with a nod to our changing climate and the constant challenge of guessing what will happen next, we transplanted the rice seedlings into the paddies two weeks later than we have in the past (the 3rd week of June rather than the 1st). We are betting that the fall will be longer (as it has been stretching out the last several years) and just hoping that it isn't too wet to finish ripening the rice before harvest. Only time will tell...