Thursday, 13 February 2014

An update from the last field on the Rice Survivor street: Palay All Stars

After having filled the seed trays on 27 December with our chosen varieties SL8 and 238, mechanical transplanting took place on the 17th of January. As we decided as a group to grow our crop ecologically and pesticide free, we did not to use any molluscicides and instead attempted to protect our seedlings from snails by getting muddy and manually collecting them. 

Team on snail hunt
Alex sharing his knowledge on snails
with the other rice survivors
In early December, to prevent the snail population growing further, we had already drowned lots of pretty coloured pink eggs in the water. 

Amazingly well over 10 kg (!) of snails were still collected   in January before planting.

One of the first challenges we gave ourselves was to use a low amount of seed: 26 kg/ha (slight miscalculation of the field size and miscommunication of sowing rates!). If we were manually transplanting, this would have been ok, especially for the hybrid variety which grows well at low densities. However, mechanical transplanting requires high densities of seeds (1kg/m2) on the seed trays to allow the machine to pick some up each time. A lesson we learnt the hard way after coming back from our Christmas break. Due to the high seed densities sowed, we didn’t have enough seed trays to cover the whole field using the transplanter. So, to account for this, we had to plant with extra spaces between rows.  Even though this was not a deliberate choice, we hope the plants appreciate the additional space and the fact that they do not have to compete with many other rice plants on their hill.

Mechanical transplanter

The next challenge came with water management! Common practice is to flood the field after fertilisation. Palay All Stars did not plant a Sub1 variety but due to some irrigation miscommunication our little seedlings had to learn how to live under water over a long weekend. As if that was not tough enough for our little plants, the water also helped the remaining snails to get around the field and help themselves to some leaves for their dinner. As the water was left on over a weekend, a lot may have overflowed into the drainage, potentially taking some of the fertiliser with it. Luckily we used the rotary weeder after fertilisation, which helped to incorporate the fertiliser into the soil. This means we have not lost all the fertiliser nor polluted the surface water too much!

Swe and Alex replanting
As we did not have much spare seed, some seedlings were taken from busy hills (you can easily separate the roots without damaging after ‘washing’ them in the water so the mud comes off) and replanted where snails or flood had caused gaps.

Our field looks a bit sad compared to the neighbours but on the bright side, there is not much food for rats so they may go elsewhere too!
Photo taken 4 February 2014

Photo taken 14 February 2014

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