Testing the Possibility of Growing Rice in Alberta

by | Aug 4, 2022 | News, Niche Crops, Research

Researchers are looking into the potential of growing rice in Alberta, a July 29 news release said. The University of Lethbridge’s Michele Konschuh is working with Calgary-based Galaxy Ag Ventures and Farming Smarter on the project.

“One of the big questions is how you are going to grow rice in Alberta,” Konschuh said in the release. “I wasn’t all that confident when they first approached me, but they did bring some technology from Korea called seed film cultivation (SFC). It’s essentially a biodegradable plastic layer that they attach the seed to and lay over moist soil.”

She adds SFC helps warm the soil and prevent moisture loss, as well as prevent weeds from taking root. Alberta’s climate tends to be cold and dry with a short growing season. However, as rice is grown in some mountainous regions, some varieties are adapted to lower temperatures and shorter seasons. Also problematic are Alberta’s long summer days because rice likes shorter days to flower. Irrigation will be needed — Konschuh says rice needs about the same amount of water as a potato crop.

Following a short-term pilot project this spring, the experiment has now moved to the field. With Galaxy Ag providing the funding and Farmer Smarter the land, technological expertise and equipment, a ULethbridge undergraduate student funded through Mitacs was hired to work on the project. Three methods for planting were used: the SFC technique, transplanting plants grown in a greenhouse, and direct seeding. The researchers also opted to try two types of irrigation: overhead pivot and subsurface drip.

“All three methods of planting have been successful so far,” Konschuh said. “What we don’t know is if we can get them all the way to rice seed production and maturation by fall. This is really early steps and the nice thing is that both B.C. and Ontario have successfully grown rice. So, we know rice can grow in Canada; what we don’t know is if rice can grow in Alberta because our conditions are a little bit different.”

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