Speak Up

Inspiration for Next Gen

By Shelley Scoullar

What a great way to start the new year – getting together with other rice farmers to discuss the season so far, problems, what’s worked, next steps, identifying critical crop stages and what to do differently next year.

For me it is so important to learn from other growers, especially those who have been growing rice for thirty years or more. Our little group has developed a great relationship where we are able to joke and rib each other, which makes working through the tough issues more relaxed. The social contact with other growers is just as important as the serious side of sharing information. I am so fortunate to be involved in an industry where participants are happy to pass on their knowledge to the next generation, and for that they have my total respect.

Attending our group gatherings takes top preference in my diary as they always remind me about what is amazing and what I love about farmers and producing rice. The group discussions always renew my hope and passion in our future. At times, outside forces can even dent someone as positive as myself!

Yesterday as we discussed the availability of different sources of technology and science to help farmers make decisions a comment made. While it was said in jest at the time, it has resonated with me and I think is a big part of what draws me to growing rice.

“Growing rice is an art.”

Sitting back and listening to farmers speak about paddock history, soil types, water management, sowing technique, the variety they are growing, the observations that they have made in over 30 years of growing rice (the list goes on!) then you can really get an appreciation of the intricate details that goes into being the clean, green and efficient rice producers we are.

Australian rice growers use 50% less water than the global average to produce a kilogram of rice and this hasn’t happened by mistake. The industry has put a great deal of time, money and skills into its research and development programs, which have produced higher yielding, cold tolerant, short season varieties, along with developing methods to increase water efficiency.

But credit must be given to those in the paddock, making observations and who are dedicated year after year to being the best rice producers they can be. No amount of technology can replace passion and gut instinct, which comes from doing what you love.

So a big thank you to my rice group for inspiring me, and amazing me with the amount of detail that can be retained over decades of experience. And the exciting thing is there is always room for improvement, ensuring that all the little details to which we pay attention turn the science into art. And that is what makes growing rice a passion.