Growing Rice as a business

Like every business, rice farming requires good decision making, the use of the best inputs, and obtaining the best price for the product that is being produced. This manual has suggestions on how best to select the inputs such as (seed, fertilizer, herbicides), the best way to grow the crop, how to manage the crop from harvest to sale, and better ways to measure what has been produced to ensure fair deals by rice buyers. Among the improvements suggested are;-


1.Switching from transplanting to drill or direct seeding (not broadcasting). This will

• Save money on labor.
• Save on inputs such as water and fertilizer.
• Decreased maturities, allow for lower risks and earlier access to the market.
• Higher overall profits.


2. The most important input improvement a farmer can make is the choice of seeds to plant. AFRITEC will have hybrid seeds available for sale by March 2018, but in the meantime has a very high yielding, high quality variety (AT058) for sale and use by farmers. Things to consider by farmers:

• Reusing seed or buying from a neighbor is ALWAYS a bad practice. They may save money on seed, but they will lose yields equivalent to 5 to 10 times the savings on the seed. NOT a good business decision.  Attend field days given by AFRITEC and others to learn about new seeds; don’t be afraid to try new and better methods.
• Hybrid rice will change your business forever. You can double your gross income, but seeds have to be purchased every season.


3. New fertilizer mixes produced by Athi River Mining, marketed as “Mavuno Rice”, can add up to 40% to your yields, and cost no more than more common fertilizers. Your AFRITEC seed representative can help you find this terrific product.
4. Improved weed control always adds to your bottom line. Herbicides are cheaper than hand labor (if hired), so consider this in your business.
5. Harvest on time, and dry evenly to avoid cracking the grains, which results in poor milling recovery and a lower value for your harvest.
6. Measure your crop as accurately as possible, to prevent traders and middlemen from cheating you on the quantity of your harvest.

If farmers are able to follow these suggestions will certainly double the profits they make on their land. Some may triple their profits. Then, they will need to learn to manage that money, to ensure that they have money for the next season. AFRITEC Seeds will be holding trainings on this aspect of the rice business, and will look to involve banks and others who can help with the development of the business side of the farming enterprise.


Insect pests, diseases of rice and their control

Farmers lose an estimated average of 37% of their rice crop to pests and diseases every year. In addition to good crop management, timely and accurate diagnosis can significantly reduce losses. If you are facing a problem in your crop and need help with diagnosis, seek advice from known professionals in research companies like Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) or KELPHIS or use the established CABI plant clinics through within your county.


Control of insect pests in rice

The best control for pests is prevention. In the early stages of the rice crop, several common insects such as the leaf folder, whorl maggot, and armyworms can cause highly visible damage symptoms; however, the damage is rarely enough to reduce yield because the crop can compensate for early damage over the rest of the growing season. Generally, it is not recommended to spray in the early stages of crop because the plant can recover from much of the damage without any loss to yield. In most cases, insecticides applied in rice fields during the early crop stages to control leaf folders or whorl maggots are unlikely to benefit farmers economically. Instead, they can cause an imbalance in the natural insect population that may lead to pest outbreaks. The recent outbreaks of army worms however is a cause for alarm and some spraying might be necessary. Encourage natural pest enemies, and properly store the grains.


The most common pests in rice include;
Rice thrips
Birds-Quelea quelea birds
Grasshopper (or green locusts)
Rice leaffolder
Cutworm
Stem borers

Rice diseases The major diseases affecting rice in Kenya are the Rice blast, the Bacterial leaf blight and the Rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV).
1. Rice blast (Pyricularia oryzae)
The disease is caused by a fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae), lesions appear on the leafs varying from small round, dark spots to oval with narrow reddish brown margins and gray or white centre, spots becoming elongated, diamond shaped or linear with pointed ends and gray dead areas in the centre surrounded by narrow reddish brown spots. If this fungus attacks the nodes, it’s know as node blast. The nodes turn dark to blue gray with fungal conidia culms that may break and plants lodge. Panicle blast occurs when single or several florets on a panicle branch turn light brown to straw coloured; floret stem with brown lesion; grains stops developing and florets turn gray.
2. Rice yellow mottle virus

The RYMV is caused by a virus of sobemoviruses genus. The disease is characterized by yellow or orange leaf discoloration, stunting, sterility and empty spikelet’s. The infection is mainly systemic leading to mottling, necrosis and stunted growth. Tillering is mostly reduced.


3. Bacterial leaf blight

This is caused by a bacteria Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae. The lesions consist of elongations near the leaf tip or margin and starts as water soaked in appearance, the lesions later turn white to yellow and then gray due to saprophytic fungi.




Control of Rice diseases

The best control disease is prevention. It’s important for every farmer to practice good cleaning of equipment and field between seasons. Use clean seeds and resistant varieties, early planting, and not applying much of fertilizer especially Nitrogen.


Harvesting, threshing, drying, milling and yield calculation.

It’s important to harvest when 18-22% moisture content (80-85%) of the grains is straw colored). Minimize the time that the harvested plants remain in the field and avoid the fields to dry out. Make sure that the panicles stay dry.


1 Post-harvest losses

Losses are estimated on the basis of the post-harvest losses in each stage and assuming that each loss found is a percentage of the amount remaining from the previous stage. Otherwise, if losses are determined on the basis of the original weight of the crop, the figure may be overestimated. The main causes of losses during drying are as follows:
• Grains shattering from stalks or spilling out from bags during transport.
• Birds and domestic fowls.  Spill-out outside the drying area.
• Over-drying, especially during sun-drying.  Delayed drying or no grain aeration, resulting in stack-burning.


3.2 What is the criterion of selecting suitable hybrid varieties?

The most important decision relating to seed is the choice between hybrid seed and Open pollinated (OP) varietal seed. Rice hybrids are new to the market in East Africa, and offer farmers an additional choice when deciding what to plant. When choosing any variety to plant, it is important to choose one whose value has been demonstrated in your area, through tests, farmer’s demos or other means. Some of the differences between hybrids and OPVs are as follows:


Milling

The rice milling operation is the separation of the husk (dehusking) and the bran (polishing) to produce the edible portion (endosperm) for consumption. Although a theoretical mill recovery would be between 71 and 73 percent, in practical terms it is possible to obtain between 68 and 70 percent from a good variety of rice. Milling losses can be reduced by adopting good post-harvest practices like harvesting on time at the correct moisture and drying slowly.


Yield calculation

The common method of measuring yields is subject to many mistakes and miscalculations. An inch or two difference in bag width can change the volume of the bag enough to put an extra 510 kg in the bag; the trader will pay for 90kg, and walks away with 100kg. To avoid this, you can accurately calculate the weight of your harvest. You will need a bucket and a water bottle of 2 liters.
As an example; Measure the volume of the bucket by filling the water bottle and pouring it into the bucket, until it is full. If it takes, for example, 10 water bottles to fill the bucket, then it is a 20 litre bucket. This is a common size for paint bucket, paraffin debes, if it takes 8 ½ bottles, then the bucket is 8 ½ x 2 = 17 litres.
Once you know the volume of your bucket, begin filling the bucket with rice, even to the top. Do not heap the rice above the top of the bucket. Count the number of buckets you fill for your entire harvest. Now you can calculate a very good estimate of your total harvest.