Viability of directly sown paddy rice

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2016: $14,632.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2019
Grant Recipient: WIld Folk Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Samuel Rooney
Wild Folk Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: rice


  • Crop Production: no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal summary:

    Both the supply and the demand for small-scale grains are on the rise in the Northeast. However, after ten years of research and production in the region, paddy rice cultivation has yet to become a substantial commercial crop. To date, northeastern rice research and production has focused exclusively on transplantation. Last season our farm successfully grew a stand of directly sown rice in a paddy. Preliminary data from this experiment indicates this methodology is worth further exploration. Transplanting rice involves more infrastructure, labor, and general expenses than directly sown rice. We have identified that these high initial costs in addition to the cost to build the paddy system itself, are major deterrents for farmers to the crop. We plan to compare two directly sown treatments, based on practices abroad, with the standard transplanting method of the Northeast. We will track labor, inputs, yields and weed pressure. Additionally, we will test two new pieces of equipment for this region, a drum seeder and rotary weeder. These are used abroad in small-scale directly sown rice operations. We will share our project and findings at two conferences in Maine and a farm field day. Furthermore, we will create demonstration and instructional videos about rice production in the Northeast, which will be accessible, online. These videos will cover equipment use, growing methods, and treatment comparisons. We believe this easily accessible format will further local rice production and consumption in the region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Proposed solution

    In paddy production, is directly sown rice a commercially viable alternative to transplanted rice for small-scale growers in the northeast?
    Drawing upon recommendations for directly sown rice from other regions, in conjunction with our past experience, we will compare two very different direct seeding methods: broadcasting and row seeding. There are many different methods and variables associated with directly sown rice (IRRI, 2002). To test all of these independently is beyond our capacity for this study. We see this as a stepping-stone to get initial results into direct seeding methodologies, with the potential for future insights in later studies.

    We will compare these two seeding methods with a transplanting method. Each method will undergo two different water management regimens, flooded and saturated, to broaden the scope of variables tested.
    As scalability is a major focus, weed pressure a major concern and low initial capital cost a goal, we will also test out a small-scale rotary mechanized weeder. This equipment is becoming more ubiquitous in commercial direct seeding operation abroad (Di Florio 2014), yet not being used in our region.


    This study will look at the stand, yield and crop quality of rice (variety Hayayuki) under three different sowing methods and two water treatment regimes.
    The three sowing methods are:
    1) Standard method: Transplanted, 1 plant / 12 inches. Follow guidelines of “Rice growing manual of the Northeast” and our three years of experience.
    2) Broadcast method: Broadcast seeded, 80 lbs/acre.
    3) Row seeded method: Seeded in rows with a drum seeder, at 12 lbs/acre.

    Water will be added gradually to all the treatment for the first four weeks. Then each treatment will all undergo two different water management regimes. These are:
    1) Saturation: Pulse flooded in heavy rains, but wet for the majority of the time.
    2) Flooded: Depth will range from 3-12 inches depending on the growing state. No water will be added in August as the canopy closes.

    There are nine paddies on the farm. Three will be used for this experiment. These paddies have almost identical soil types and histories. They are all Buxton silt loam soil, with 10-12% clay content.
    These paddies were finished in the spring of 2015 and received a combination of cover crops, flood fallowing and pig rotations. The pigs killed most perennial grasses. The paddies receive water from a pond uphill. This pond is fed from a spring, an ephemeral stream or our water pump, in severely dry periods. Each paddy has its own inflow and outflow. We will use six adjacent paddies in this experiment, with ten-foot berms separating them. Each is 5000 square feet with a height differential of no more than two inches within them. They were intentionally built and managed for experimentation and research.

    Each paddy will be considered a block, three will be flooded and three saturated. The treatments will be arranged in a split-plot design, with water management as the main plot and seeding method as the sub-plot. Each treatment will be repeated three times, for a total of 18 subplots. We will be using a “Randomized Complete Block Design” and use ANOVA (alpha = 0.05) to analyze the data. Please reference Appendix A for a diagram. Each plot will be a 7 x 50 foot bed. The shape of the blocks is dictated by the ability to use the drum seeder, along with the ease of access for data collection, weeding and observation. There will be a three-foot aisle between each plot. To offset edge effects there will be a three-foot buffer from the edge of the paddy to the adjacent plot as well. A berm, with built-in drainage, will be created to enclose the treatments in each the flooded paddy. This will lessen the total area needed for flooding from 15,000 to 6,000 square feet and ensure adequate water for this experiment and the rest of our rice operation.


    Labor by activity will be tracked daily for any task related to the rice. All purchases for the rice project will be done electronically. Space in the high tunnel will also be calculated for opportunity costs.
    The following data will be taken from two, half square meter quadrates in each treatment. Data will not taken from the outer rows of any treatment, to account for edge effect. This data will be pooled by subplot.
    Heading dates – Collected when three panicles have emerged.
    Tillering count: At heading date.
    Maturity Date 1: When 50% of the rice is fully brown and has folded over.
    Maturity Date 2: When 90% of the rice is fully brown and ready to thresh.
    Lodging: Plants that have fallen between maturity dates.
    Height: Recorded at Maturity Date 1.
    Stand count: Recorded June 15, before we switch to the flooded and saturated water management regimes. Weed Data: Our baseline at planting/sowing will be no weeds. Weed counts will be taken every two weeks from late May till the end of July. The five most numerous weeds in our rice paddies (identified in 2015) will be tallied separately, and the rest tallied as “other”. After counts, hand weeding will occur in the row seeding and transplanting treatments. Hand weeding should correlate with weed pressure. Labor will be tracked for the hand weeding in the whole treatment. To emulate the reality of broadcasting at a normal scale, no weeding will take place in the broadcasting treatments. To obtain more data and help compare broadcast treatments, the above ground biomass will be taken from the weeds in each quadrate, dried and weighed during weed counts. Hand weeding will cease in the other two treatments around August 1. As the plant switches into a ripening life stage weed presence should have little effects on yields. At Maturation Date 1 the above ground biomass will be taken, dried and weighed in all treatments. It should be noted that we have found considerably less weed pressure and diversity in our paddies as compared to dry-land agriculture.

    The Cono-weeder will be used in half of the non-experimental parts of our rice paddies and hand weeding in the other half. These labor times, recorded but unbudgeted, will allow us to anecdotally extrapolate weed labor with a conoweeder as compared to hand weeding.
    Yields: Dry weight at 15% moisture content. The plants will be threshed by our foot-powered thresher and dried in our high tunnel.
    Bobolinks caused major damage last season to our crop from August 25th to September 10th. Their damage was not uniform, as they prefer unripe seed. Six 50 x 50 foot nets will be put up to during time. No data collection will be taken at this time. Nets will be removed for data collection.

    We will use new random quadrates for each data grouping. Each weed count, stand count and yield will get new quadrates. Heading dates and tillering will share a quadrate as will plant height, lodging and maturity dates.


    Manage grant, buy equipment: March – April (4 hrs) Ben
    Spring article in MOFGA quarterly: April (8 hours) Ben
    Soak seed for transplanting, remove floaters, change water daily, dry: April 15-22 (4 hours) Ben
    Sow Seedlings: 25 trays: April 22-April 28 (12 hours) Employees
    Seedling maintenance. Thin, water, fertilize, cover when cold: April 22-May 22 (.5 hour daily = 15 hours) Employees, Ben
    Create 3 berms (2 x 2 x 50) in flooded paddies with shovels: May 1-10 (40 hours) Employees, Ben
    Fertilize 6 blocks. Add compost and amendments. Flood paddies: May 1-May 5 (16 hours) Employees, Ben
    Mark separate blocks. Flood paddies: May 10 (4 hours) Ben, Bryan
    Soak seed for directly sown rice and dry: May 10-15 (4 hours) Ben
    Drain paddies: May 13 (1 hour) Ben
    Dry directly sown seed. Test drum seeder. Hand Broadcast and use drum seeder on 4,200 sq ft: May 15-17 (8 hours) Ben
    Multimedia I - drum seeding, hand sowing, transplanting, instructions. Edit Media. Post online: May 15 – 25 (14 hours) Tamer, Ben
    Stand count: June 10 (4 hours) Ben, Bryan
    Weed counts, and census, 5 times in 18 treatments: May – July (40 hours) Ben, Bryan
    Collect, dry, weigh weeds. 5 times in broadcast treatment and at end of season in two other treatments: May – September (50 hours) Bryan, Ben
    Transplant 2,100 plants: May 25 – May 30 (12 hours) Ben, Employees
    Project Maintenance: Adjust water levels, observe and maintain experiments, manage personal, check/record weekly work hours and finances: May 1 – October 1 (2 hours week = 56 hours) Ben
    Incubate azolla in high tunnel and introduce in 3 blocks: June 1 -15 (4 hours) Ben
    Fertilize rice: June 20th (4 hours) Ben
    Heading date, tiller counts. July 10-20 (6 hrs)Ben, Bryan
    Presentation I - Kneading conference: Late July (2 hour presentation, 8 hours prep) Ben
    Multimedia II: Video/film for Conoweeder, data collection, treatment comparisons. Edit media. Post online: July 10-15 (12 hours) Tamer, Ben
    Pest Control – 6 Nets put up over blocks: August 25th to September 10th (2 hours/net with two people to put up 1 hr to take down = 36 hrs) Employees
    Field day advertising and preparation: September (6 hours) Ben
    Maturation date, plant height, lodging: September 10-20 (6 hours) Ben, Brian
    Field day, demos, rice harvest: September 17 (6 hours) Ben, Employees
    Multimedia and edit field day September 17 (10 hours) Ben, Tamer
    Thresh, dry, clean and record yields for each treatment. Film. Edit. September 20 – October 10 (50 hours) Ben, employees, Tamer
    Project Report & Data analysis. Post Online: October (10 hours unpaid Caragh, 30 hours paid Ben)
    Film creation. Final edit of Multimedia. Put film online. October (20 hours) Ben, Tamer
    Presentation II – MOFGA Farmer to Farmer: November (10 hours prep and 2 hours presentation) Bryan, Ben Berm removal/incorporation into paddy: November (10 hours) Employees.

    Outreach plan

    Ben will write an article for “MOFGA Quarterly” about the project, growing paddy rice in Maine, and encourage people to come visit the farm.
    Additionally, we will create an instructional and informative video series about growing rice in Maine. We will hire a multimedia specialist, who can photograph and film the project as it unfolds. Ben and this specialist will spend extra time demonstrating and providing instructions for this new equipment in the region (Cono-weeder and Drum- seeder). Pictures, interviews and video will take place throughout the season, and will be focused on sowing methods, cultivation methods, treatment comparisons, harvesting and processing. This information and the final report will be made public on our website.

    We will have one field day, September 17th where people can see the treatments. We will demonstrate the Drum- Seeder with a cover crop, cultivate with the Cono-weeder, as well as harvest, dry, and thresh some of the rice. This will be advertised in the article, at the Kneading conference, online, with flyers, through our u-pick strawberry and rice operations.

    Ben will present preliminary data and multimedia at the Kneading conference in Skowhegan. He will present the final data at MOFGA’s Farmer to Farmer conference. Ben has already given six presentations about growing rice in Maine over the past two seasons.
    We are the only farm growing rice commercially in Maine, which is why we feel it necessary to have a lot of outreach with this project.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.