Yield comparison between furrow-irrigated or row rice and traditional flood-irrigated rice was statistically the same, for Mississippi County, Arkansas farmers Mike and Ryan Sullivan.
But with fewer trips across the field to prepare land for the next soybean crop saved time, labor and money, said Ryan during a presentation at the January national Conservation Systems Cotton and rice Conference in Memphis.
Pulling levees was one of the reasons Ryan decided to try furrow-irrigated rice. Although he’s a recent graduate of Arkansas State University, Ryan has spent his whole life on the fifth-generation rice-soybean farm.
“Every fall we would go in with a field cultivator and a Kelly Diamond to get the soybean fields ready so we could plant rice flat,” he said in his presentation. “We drilled into the old soybean beds from last year. We planted at an angle because we couldn’t get good down pressure in the middles.”
Planting on the old soybean beds meant the Sullivans didn’t have to put up levees in their rice, a practice that on their heavy gumbo soils could require five or six trips with a tractor and a levee plow. The lack of levees means the fields are also less likely to become rutted during harvest.
Sullivan said the furrow-irrigated fields that were grown in side-by-side comparisons with conventionally-planted rice produced an average of 4.6-bushels-per-acre less rice than the fields of levee rice. (The 477.2 acres of furrow rice produced an average of 196.5 bushels vs. 201.1 bushels per acre on 539 acres of flooded rice.)