WITH estimates continuing to predict a rice crop that is 10 times the size of last year's, an industry field day provided the perfect opportunity to look to the future.
Held recently at "Old Coree" in Jerilderie, the annual Rice Industry Field Day was attended by more than 150 growers and stakeholders.
This year's theme was Rice Innovation: Restacking the shelves.
This was a nod to the demand for rice as one of the first staple foods food retailers restricted in response to panic buying, 2021's promising outlook, and the industry's focus on innovation to ensure the industry remains a competitive user of farm business resources.
Reflecting on the season and the annual event, rice extension co-ordinator Troy Mauger was enthusiastic about the prospects and was pleased to see such a great turn out.
"It's a busy season and we're really pleased so many growers were able to make the time to get off the farm and to bring the industry together," he said.
From RD&E to marketing and everything in between, growers heard from AgriFutures Australia on the future of the Rice Program, and how it's approaching RD&E to ensure it delivers returns on the rice research and development levy for growers.
SunRice gave a presentation on what the Riverina Sustainability Framework means for rice growers, the current season, the broader business, and future outlook.
AgriFutures Rice Advisory Panel chairman and rice grower Drew Braithwaite updated growers on the AgriFutures Rice Program's RD&E investments and the future of the program.
SunRice Group chairman Laurie Arthur spoke of a positive future ahead.
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"After two extremely difficult years for Riverina rice production - driven by low water availability, extremely high water prices and the impacts of water reform - it's pleasing to see an improvement in conditions and an increase in rice production," he said.
"Harvesting has already started on a crop estimated to be more than 450,000 paddy tonnes, which is some 10 times the size of the 2020 crop, the second-lowest on record.
"(More than 400) growers have planted rice across 674 farms, with some 44,000 hectares planted in the Murrumbidgee, Coleambally and Murray valleys.
"SunRice has 11 receival and storage sites open through its Australian Grain Storage subsidiary, and we've already seen some deliveries start with growers who have started harvesting around Griffith.
"The fact growers have returned to rice production shows that it is a perfect fit for the farming systems in the Riverina - and that when growers have improved water availability they can increase production."
In the field, the Department of Primary Industries updated growers on their research investigating slow-release fertilisers to improve drill sown rice yields, some of the new rice varieties in the pipeline, the best agronomic management for our major varieties and more.
This year's Rice Industry Awards were also launched on the day.
Rice extension officer Harriet Brickhill kicked off the awards and challenged growers to nominate the person next to them or across the fence.
"Growers are typically pretty humble and so it's sometimes a tough ask to get them to put up their own hand. We have a bumper number of growers this year and we really want to see growers acknowledging their peers that are doing great things for the industry."
For more information and details on how to make a nomination visit https://riceextension.org.au/rice-industry-awards.
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