An Ingham sugar cane grower is investigating whether growing rice for the past two years has improved the soil health on his farm.
Stephen Accornero planted 6 hectares of rice in his first trial two years ago, and has since increased that to 20 hectares.
“I was looking at alternative crops that would stop me from growing a monoculture all the time,” he said.
“I’d already done it with corn, but corn didn’t suit this area, so I thought I’d try rice because the soils look like they might suit it better.”
Six cane growers in the Ingham area are participating in the trials, with Riverina company Sunrice providing the “rice and advice” and farmers bearing the other costs.
“Because of the tropical conditions here, the rice grew faster at certain times of the year and at other times it slowed down,” Mr Accornero said.
“The Riverina fellas weren’t totally aware of that and that made it a bit awkward when it came to fertilising and spraying, because you have certain times to do it in.”
Mr Accornero said last year’s rice crop made about $400 per hectare profit, but this might not be the case for other growers.
“We had the harvester and we had all the equipment we needed to sustain a crop of rice, whereas a lot of other farmers don’t, which makes it more expensive for them,” he said.
“They thought the agronomy would be a lot more up to date, harvesting, transport, planting — all the costs they weren’t prepared for at the time.
“So they probably found it a lot more expensive than I did.”
Mr Accornero will not find out if growing rice has improved soil health until he harvests next year’s cane crop from the trial sites.
He was optimistic about the potential benefits on his farm, but said rice would not necessarily be for everyone.
“Certain areas it possibly won’t suit, so you’re best talking to an agronomist to give you an idea, or someone from Sunrice who will put you on the right track,” he said.
“It certainly can be a feasible crop, and rice is looking promising for us in this area.”