Israeli water experts investigate benefits of drip feeding rice


Australian rice growers are being encouraged to explore new ways of irrigating their crops using less water.

Instead of flooding paddocks, researchers are looking at whether it is possible to successfully water rice using drip tape buried beneath the soil.

The method is widely used in vegetable production and was pioneered by Israeli company Netafim more than 50 years ago.

Today, more than 75 per cent of Israel's irrigated agriculture uses a sub-surface drip system.

Netafim agronomist Dr Itamar Nadav said farmer attitudes to water use need to keep evolving.

"I think it will take some time for the rice industry in the world and in Australia to understand it and adopt it.

"Rice takes a lot, a lot of water.

"And if we can reduce the amount of water that is being used by the crop it's amazing."

The majority of Australia's rice is irrigated, with small volumes grown in north Queensland and northern New South Wales marketed as rain fed.

Netafim is working with Israel's Ben-Gurion University to test sub surface drip irrigation on a rice farm in Woodland, California.

Over the next few years it plans to test the method on different rice varieties in a range of countries.

Dr Nadav said drip feeding rice also had the potential to boost crop yields.

"The plant is given the exact amount of water and exact amount of fertiliser that it needs," he said.

"As opposed to flood irrigation, it gives all the water the plant needs, but in one day.

"It's like walking in the desert and drinking once a week instead of each day or whenever you want.

"This is the difference."


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