Prob­lem turned up­side-down

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News -

RICE grower Peter Macdon­ald turned a prob­lem on its head to find a so­lu­tion – lit­er­ally.

The north Queens­land farmer, who is also SunRice’s north­ern busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ager and en­vi­ron­men­tal man­ager, is tri­alling the use of an up­side-down bed to im­prove his ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem on rice crops.

“It’s a bit dif­fer­ent to what grow­ers would nor­mally do,” he ex­plained dur­ing the TropAg con­fer­ence in Bris­bane.

“I have the wheel tracks high on the pro­file.

“I have been called crazy things for try­ing this, but this was our way at look­ing at how to best use ir­ri­ga­tion ef­fi­ciently.”

The idea stemmed from a failed crop dur­ing a rice trial, and a visit to a Mackay farmer’s prop­erty.

“Be­fore I was work­ing for SunRice I was do­ing some tri­als for Rice Re­search Aus­tralia and grow­ing rice with Dad.

“We had crop fail­ure. “We could not get the wa­ter to soak up into the beds. We couldn’t get the wa­ter to soak into the soil at all.

“We went to An­drew Barfield’s place in Mackay. And he just said it so sim­ply it clicked with me.

“He said ‘I walk down on top of the hill so I don’t get my feet wet and I grow all my rice in the bot­tom in the base of the fur­row’.”

Mr Macdon­ald said this was a “light bulb mo­ment”.

“I thought why are we spend­ing so much ef­fort try­ing to build the bed, and have the rice on the top, and then spend­ing even more en­ergy to try and get the wa­ter to soak through.”

Weld­ing a few things onto a second-hand im­ple­ment, Mr Macdon­ald cre­ated his first up­side-down bed.

“That was two sea­sons ago now. I got ridiculed by a num­ber of grow­ers quite heav­ily.

“In the first trial, it was a suc­cess. I haven’t had any rea­son not to do it.”

Anec­do­tally, Mr Macdon­ald said he be­lieved he was us­ing a lot less wa­ter.

Over­all, Mr Macdon­ald be­lieves the north­ern rice in­dus­try could be­come a ma­jor player.

SunRice now has a 4000 tonne silage sys­tem in the north.

For the in­dus­try to pros­per, Mr Macdon­ald said col­lab­o­ra­tion was key.

“We could waste a lot of time and money if we all went off in our own di­rec­tion solv­ing in­di­vid­ual puz­zles piece by piece. But if we come to­gether we can solve the big prob­lems,” he said.

PHOTO: AN­DREA DAVY

BIG PIC­TURE: Rice grower Peter Macdon­ald speak­ing at TropAg.

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