Problem turned upside-down
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.
BIG PICTURE: Rice grower Peter Macdonald speaking at TropAg.