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[This summary has been extracted, with permission, from a report by the USDA Risk Management Agency, Risk and Evaluation Divisions; the full report is available on: http://www.act.fcic.usda.gov/research/feasible.html
To contact the agency:
United States Department of Agriculture
Risk Management Agency/Risk Management Education
Room 6755, Stop Code 0803
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-0803
Wild rice is an annual, cross-pollinated plant that grows in flooded soils. Plants normally reach five to six feet in height and produce multiple tillers, or stems. The stems are hollow, except at the nodes where the leaves, roots, and flowers appear. The plant has a shallow root system with a lateral spread of 8 to 12 inches.
Wild rice seed is similar to the grain of cereals, such as wheat and oats. Immature seeds are green, but turn a purple-black colour as they reach maturity. Seeds on any given stem mature at different times, and on the secondary stems, they mature later than on the main stems. Early-maturing seeds are very prone to shattering (dropping from the seed head) before the later-maturing seeds ripen.
Approximately 99 percent of the cultivated wild rice grown in the U.S. is produced in California and Minnesota. The remainder is produced in Idaho, Wisconsin, and Oregon. Minnesota's cultivated wild rice is produced primarily on the north-central peatlands. California's wild rice acreage is divided among three distinct climatic regions: the rice-producing areas in the Sacramento Valley; areas surrounding Clear Lake in Lake County; and the mountain valleys in north-eastern California.
Wild rice farming in the Sacramento Valley differs markedly from wild rice farming in Minnesota. The most important differences are that Sacramento Valley farmers seed annually and have fewer disease problems than Minnesota producers. Although California's practice of annual reseeding is expensive, it prevents the yield declines which occur in Minnesota, where volunteer wild rice in succeeding years causes overcrowding of plant stands.
Although there are no official USDA estimates of Minnesota's wild rice area, analysts familiar with the industry agree that the state has nearly twice as much acreage as California. The most commonly cited figure for 1995 is "about 17,000" acres. The California Wild Rice Advisory Board, on the other hand, reported 8,978 acres of wild rice in California in 1995. The U.S. produces 10-12 million pounds (processed weight) of cultivated wild rice annually. Although Minnesota has the larger acreage, production is divided about equally between California and Minnesota. Growers in California obtain higher yields per acre and a higher percentage recovery of "finished" (processed) wild rice per pound of "green" (unprocessed) yield than growers in Minnesota. One source reported 5.3 million pounds of finished output for Minnesota in 1994, and 5.0 million pounds for California.
Wild rice is adapted to cool climates. It yields poorly in the southern United States, where extreme heat and shorter summer-time day lengths accelerate plant development and maturation, lessening seed production. In addition, the high humidity in the South favours the develop of leaf diseases, such as brown spot.
Virtually all wild rice is grown in flooded fields. The soil needs to be saturated from the time the seeds germinate in the spring until 2-3 weeks before harvest. The water depth during the first 8-10 weeks after germination needs to be held at a constant level to assure vigorous plant growth. Variable water depths during this period may uproot young plants or result in weak stems that lodge during water drawdown. Wild rice may be either spring- or fall-planted in Minnesota. In California, seeding is done in the spring, except in some of the higher elevations, where planting may also occur in the fall. Annual reseeding in the spring is required in the Sacramento Valley because the paddies do not remain moist over the winter.
Production perils are generally of more concern in Minnesota than in California. Major causes of low wild rice yields include inadequate water with which to flood the paddies; uncontrolled flooding that washes out dikes and destroys young plants; wind storms which increase shattering and cause lodging; and hot, humid conditions which promote leaf diseases. Yield losses from most other perils usually do not reach an economic threshold.
Disaster assistance payments for wild rice losses totalled $3.2 million over the 1988-94 period. The largest payments were made in 1988, at $1.7 million. These large payments were due to drought, which prevented adequate flooding of the paddies, particularly in Minnesota. Across the 1988-94 period, Minnesota received 80 percent of the total payments, while California growers collected 14 percent.
There is likely to be substantial demand among wild rice growers for crop insurance, especially in Minnesota. This is because crop failures are frequent in that state due to adverse weather conditions. Drought, flooding, and wind storms all hold the potential for causing various degrees of crop failure in Minnesota. In addition, long periods of warm, wet weather can exacerbate yield losses due to leaf diseases. There is likely to be less demand for wild rice crop insurance in California than in Minnesota. California growers are less likely to experience crop failures due to drought, and leaf diseases have not been a source of major yield losses. In addition, flooding is less likely to cause production losses in California than in Minnesota.
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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originally created by:GK; latest update 17 October 2001 by: RF