By Andrea Melissa Sanchez and Leidy Avila, Fedearroz
Why do we grow rice?
In Colombia, rice is a staple food in our diet, it is important for the family basket, and at the same time for the national economy. The average annual consumption is 42.2 kilograms per person.
The rice activity in the country is developed in 210 municipalities of 23 departments. This productive chain generates nearly 410,000 direct and indirect jobs and represents about 0.4% of the national Gross Domestic Product and about 5% of the agricultural GDP.
The country is divided into five rice growing areas (Centro, Llanos Orientales, Bajo Cauca, Santanderes y Costa Norte) and is produced under two systems. The first is the rain-fed system, in which the water used comes from the rains. The second is the irrigation system, in which the water is supplied by irrigation.
On average, in the rain-fed system the yield is 4.19 tons of dry paddy per year, and under irrigated conditions around 5.65 tons.
Who is FEDEARROZ?
With the aim of promoting the development of rice cultivation in Colombia, FEDEARROZ is the National Federation of Rice Growers of Colombia. Since 1947, it has existed to support and give union representation to affiliated producers. In addition, FEDEARROZ offers certified seed, agricultural inputs and technical advice, and manages the National Rice Fund (FNA) whose main mission is to conduct research and the transfer of technology.
Supported by an interdisciplinary group of professionals specialized in different areas such as water and soil management, physiology, plant pathology, entomology, meteorology and plant breeding, FEDEARROZ has been able to establish control and mitigation measures for a large part of the adverse factors that affect crop productivity.
In 22 years of research, 45 varieties of rice adapted to the different needs and rice-growing regions of the country have been registered, and we have managed to maintain stable and competitive production levels sufficient to supply the national demand for rice.
Additionally, since 2012 FEDEARROZ-FNA has been implementing the Mass Adoption Program or AMTEC. This program is set within the context of two major challenges facing the rice sector: climate change and free trade agreements. AMTEC is a technology transfer model that seeks the profitability and competitiveness of rice producers, through increasing yields and reducing production costs, and is based on environmental and social sustainability throughout the production chain.
Even when it seems that we know everything about rice, that is just not true. Challenges such as climate change and the need to produce more rice with fewer resources and lower environmental impact confront us with the need to form alliances.
With funds from the UK Space Agency and together with our partners Agricompas, Cenipalma, Solidaridad, Pixalytics, IWCO, and CIAT, the EcoProMIS project is one such alliance, through which we are developing tools such as remote sensing through images captured with drones and satellites.
The earth observation data complements the phenotypic information acquired in situ on the rice farms. Together, this information is establishing predictive models that facilitate monitoring and decision-making for the effective management of rice farms, and contribute to the objective of having a competitive and profitable rice sector.
What are we doing at EcoProMIS?
Among the departments with the largest area planted with rice in Colombia are Casanare and Tolima, with their two cultivation systems, rainfed and irrigation, respectively.
A field within a farm in each location was selected for EcoProMIS. At these fields the team of researchers from FEDEARROZ working on the project have established a platform for acquiring agronomic data in different stages of the crop, together with climatic information from meteorological stations, and GHG emissions with Eddy Covariance towers and static cameras.
At the same time, UAV images are being taken and analyzed to correlate parameters of rice development with variables such as yield. Additionally, we are working on establishing a robust and calibrated data model for rice cultivation, integrating all the information acquired.
It is expected that the EcoProMIS project will produce a platform for the use of our affiliated farmers, who from the beginning have also been part of the process, contributing their experience and needs for the creation of the platform. We want the pilots to be extended to more farmers, and will continue to work on it through workshops with growers.
We are committed to the Colombian rice sector, and we will continue to advance on that path in projects like this one, which have also allowed us to create a scientific network in which we hope to continue learning and innovating.
With EcoProMis we have a lot to contribute and also a lot to learn!