May 5, 2019

Grain Growing: Upland Rice

Dan and I enjoy brown rice, but until recently it didn't occur to me to grow it. That's because I always envision rice in paddies, which I couldn't imagine myself doing. Then I learned the difference between lowland and upland rice and changed my mind.

Lowland rice is paddy rice, i.e. grown in water. This is always how I assumed rice is grown. Upland rice, on the other hand, doesn't require flooding. It needs about an inch of water per week, but doesn't need to stand in water. That makes it a good choice for standard garden beds. I found the seed at Sherck Seeds and ordered two kinds.


Loto rice is an Italian variety, a risotto type. I chose it because it is said to have excellent flavor and is one of the easier kinds to dehull. That, plus it isn't supposed to lodge (fall over) easily.

The second rice I chose was Cho Seun Zo Saeng. It is a short grain brown rice grown in China and Korea. It too, is lodge resistant, easy to hull, and a heavy producer; all of which sounded good to me.


The recommended way to plant rice is in plug trays for transplanting. It can also be broadcast into a prepared bed, but I went with planting plugs. It's a little more work this way, but at least I'll know where they are after they're planted and not mistake them for plain grass!


Each packet contained 7 grams of seed. The Loto grains were larger and heavier, and I got about 280 seeds in the packet. The Cho Seun had about 345 seeds per 7 grams. It is recommended to soak the seed in water for 24 hours before planting.


Germination was good. Most sources say to transplant the seedlings at four weeks. However, on his website, John Sherck recommends transplanting them at three weeks, because after that they start to become root bound. I started transplanting at three weeks and found well developed roots that hadn't started growing through the drain hole in the bottom of the plug cells. I started by soaking the ground well first.


The book you see in the above photo is Sara Pitzer's Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest, and Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn and More. It's a book I would recommend to anyone interested in growing grain. I also have Gene Logsdon's Small-Scale Grain Raising, and recommend it too. Sara's book is more reference-like in the way the material is organized, so it's the one I grabbed for planting details.

Planting distance is 3 to 4 inches between plants in a row, with 9 to 12 inches between rows. From knuckle to knuckle my hand measures 3 inches, so it makes for a handy way to space the plants.


The spacing of my rows is a little narrower, though, because I wanted to get all the plants into the same bed. After the rice seedlings were transplanted, I sprinkled the beds with Dutch white clover seed and watered the beds.


The timing for planting worked well. We had an overcast sky (best for transplants) with rain forecast. Dan helped me and we finished by mid-afternoon. At chore time it poured and tomorrow (Sunday) there should be clouds and more rain. Perfect for the seedlings to settle in.

Harvest should be about 105 days from transplanting for the Loto, and 126 days for the Cho Seun. Hopefully, it will grow well and I'll have something to harvest! In the meantime, I'd probably better look into some sort of de-hulling tool. Brill Engineering has videos and instructions for DIY de-hullers, which sounds like the best way to go.

Anyone else giving grain growing a try this year?

23 comments:

Jeff Anthony said...

I have to try this! Is this the first time you've grown it? What kind of yield did you get?

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Wow what a great idea! I'd do that if we had the room!!!

J.L. Murphey said...

I'm not familiar with upland rice. Thanks Leigh! Something new to try.

Leigh said...

Jeff, this is my first time. Hopefully I'll have a good yield! Check back in August for my results.

Nancy, I forgot to mention that on his website John mentions growing rice in pots. Might be worth an experiment.

Jo, I didn't either, so it was a great find. Here's hoping it does well in the hot, sunny south.

Jeff Anthony said...

Thanks! I just purchased the Purple Jomon... I've been looking at the videos of the de-hulling tools from Brill... I guess you have to build it yourself? That's my next dilemma... how to hull rice...

Leigh said...

Jeff, yes, that's what I gather about the dehuller. There's also a company in Montana that sells a ready-made dehuller attachment for one of their grain mills, Grainmaker. It would cost close to $1000 for both (plus shipping). So if you have the money, that's an option.

The Purple Jomon looks really interesting. I've never had sticky rice before, so I may have to give this one a try some time. Assuming I have success with these first experiments!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I will interested to follow. This was one of Masanobu Fukuoka's great suggestions, that rice did not inherently have to be grown in a paddy.

Leigh said...

TB, Masanobu Fukuoka is one of my inspirations. Both the rice, and planting clover with it! He did make a good argument for limited flooding for weed control, but I'm glad it isn't a necessity. I hope I have his good success.

wyomingheart said...

I want to grow rice, and have done some research, but this is terrific that your are growing it. I did grow quinoa last year. It grows very easy, and was quite easy to process. I didn't realize how much a couple of rows would grow... we have only eaten about half of what we put up last year. I am anxious to know how you and Dan do with growing the rice and processing it as well. Thanks for sharing.

Ed said...

Well a couple thousand acres but I don't think you are interested in corn and soybeans.

I always loved brown rice as a kid but I ended up marrying someone from the pacific rim and they frown upon those "grass seeds" and prefer their lowland rice varieties. I will follow your experiment and perhaps can sneak a plot into the farm garden someday.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, now quinoa is something I've never tried. It is amazing how much you can get from a small patch, isn't it? We did amaranth for several years, but mostly as feed. I had trouble saving seed, though, because it kept crossing with the wild "pigweed" amaranth. Hopefully our summer isn't too hot for the rice!

Ed, I can't even imagine thousands of acres, lol.

Now you've got me wondering about flavor difference between upland and lowland varieties. I've wondered, too, about perhaps creating a small rice paddy of my own. Maybe with a pond liner and rainwater. Might be worth a try too.

Susan said...

This is so interesting, Leigh. Did you plant the clover as a ground cover - to hold in moisture? I have never thought about planting rice, but it now sounds like something that might be possible. I'll be looking forward to updates!

Leigh said...

Susan, yes. I planted the clover for a living mulch and for nitrogen. I'm finding that what I grow does so much better if companion planted with at least one other thing.

Rose said...

I cannot wait to see how this goes...I had never thought about growing rice...just so very interesting. Seems like there is so much I never thought of...it makes me wonder where my mind is!

Leigh said...

Rose, I have to say that I am continually learning new things, and growing rice is one of them!

The Wykeham Observer said...

I was wondering how long you've experienced your clover to live. Does it survive the cold season. I planted red clover last year, actually in the lawn, in hopes it would fill in where the grass refuses to grow. It did well, but so far this spring I'm only seeing a little so far. I'm thinking about re-planting my hayfields, after it was not farmed well by the last guy who rented. I'm thinking of sort of a prairie restoration with grasses and legumes.

Leigh said...

Phil, your prairie restoration idea is wonderful! I'm sure there is someone in your county cooperative extension department who can give you an idea of native plants and seed sources. Here in the south, clover does well fall through spring and then usually goes dormant when it gets too hot. You are far enough north that I'm guessing you could grow it spring through fall, with winter dormancy. From my experience, sometimes it seems to take it's time germinating. My Dutch white seed with the rice has germinated quickly and well, so I'm hoping for a nice living mulch!

Christine said...

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Leigh said...

Christine, thank you for the link heads up! Gone! I check my sidebar links periodically, but probably not regularly enough. A good reminder as to why to check links more often.

And thank you for being a regular reader! I especially appreciate that.

Kristin said...

How interesting! I didn't realize you could grow rice in any form other than paddies. I'll be watching for more details here to see how the growing season goes. And I'll definitely be checking out the books you mentioned.

Leigh said...

Kristin, it was a pleasant discovery for me too! We enjoy rice so to be able to grow a nice supply for the year would be great.

Kev Alviti said...

I think you've already seen on my blog that we are here. Although already had some set backs. Nice have eaten 3/4 of my heritage wheat and all of my hull less oats. So I've had to start again with the oats and use the wheat purely to build my seed numbers for next year. I have a little pot of Ethiopian barley on the patio to also build seed stock and a bigger patch of hull less barley of a different type in a veg bed in the garden.
I don't think rice would work here, except maybe in the polytunnel but it wouldn't be great use of my under cover space.
I'm keen for the kids to see it growing and know that calories count and are hard to grow. I hope it'll be a fun experiment.

Leigh said...

Kev, it never hurts to experiment! Like you say, even if just for your kids' sake, but also for whatever tidbits of knowledge you'll pick up along the way. I'm sorry to hear about your wheat and oats, though. I have packets of heritage wheat and hulless oats I need to get in the ground for a seed crop. Hulless oats didn't do well for me when I tried it several years ago. But I think it's a good idea to give it a go for at least several years before giving up.