Wednesday, August 10, 2022

U of L researcher looks at viability of rice crops in Alberta

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A University of Lethbridge researcher is in the early stages of finding out whether or not rice can be grown in Alberta.

Dr. Michele Konschuh is a research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the U of L. Konschuh is working together with Galaxy Ag Ventures and Farming Smarter Association to figure out the viability of rice being added to the list of value-added crops in Alberta.

Dr. Michele Konschuh (Photo courtesy of the University of Lethbridge)

“One of the big questions is how you are going to grow rice in Alberta,” says Konschuh. “I wasn’t all that confident when they first approached me, but they did bring some technology from Korea called seed film cultivation (SFC). It’s essentially a biodegradable plastic layer that they attach the seed to and lay over moist soil.”

As Alberta tends to be relatively cold and dry, Konschuh says the new technology will help warm the soil and prevent moisture loss, while also preventing weeds from taking root.

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The experiment is currently in the field, after a short-term trial earlier this spring. Galaxy Ag supplied funding, and Farming Smarter came through with the donation of land, technological expertise and equipment. A U of L student was also hired to work on the project.

The three methods currently being tested are the SFC technique, transplanting plants grown in a greenhouse, and direct seeding. Two types of irrigation have also been looked at by researchers.

“All three methods of planting have been successful so far,” she says. “What we don’t know is if we can get them all the way to rice seed production and maturation by fall. This is really early steps and the nice thing is that both B.C. and Ontario have successfully grown rice. So, we know rice can grow in Canada; what we don’t know is if rice can grow in Alberta because our conditions are a little bit different.”

Galaxy Ag Ventures is based in Calgary, and focuses on strategic investment and product development in agri-foods. Farming Smarter, based in Lethbridge, is a non-profit organization run by farmers looking to push innovation in the farming world.

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