Growing rice requires large amounts of water and different nutrients. With typical rice growing, their paddy fields are filled with water. With the recent aquaponic gardening trend emerging, a variety of people have opted to grow aquaponics rice. Aquaponic gardening involves combining aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing vegetables and crop plants) without the need for soil. The fish excrete, and waste within the water is supplied to the plants as nutrients, and in turn, the plants purify the water for the fish by taking up the nutrients. Rice is a beloved commodity worldwide, but like most commodities, it is purchased. As more people examine the food supply sustainability, aquaponic rice gardening has become an attractive and viable idea.
Types of Rice that can be grown in aquaponics
Rice is differentiated according to the grain- long, medium, or short, texture, color, and shape. When you choose to grow aquaponic rice, consider the type that perfectly suits your culinary needs. Popular varieties of rice include;
This type of rice has a grain of a medium size with a dot at the center. The texture is creamy due to its high content of amylopectin starch and is perfect mainly for making the famous Italian risotto.
Basmati rice has grains that are long and dry and has a whole nut-like aroma. When cooked, it gets a light and airy texture. It does not contain gluten and can be paired with Indian and Asian cuisine curries. Herbs and coconut are added for more flavor.
Jasmine rice is a long-grain variety mainly grown in Thailand. It is low in starch content. It quickly absorbs exotic flavors and is therefore primarily used for many Asian dishes. Jasmice rice has a buttery and floral Jasmine aroma. Jasmine rice can be white, purple, black, brown, or red.
This type of rice is a whole grain which makes it highly nutritious. Brown rice is consumed mainly by people that are health conscious. It is a perfect type for casseroles and stir fry dishes.
White rice is usually stripped of the bran and germ and left with the endosperm. Due to the loss of its nutrients, most people consider it low carb. This type of rice is prevalent in making ethnic American rice recipes. It can also be paired with Mexican dishes. Its flavor is mild in comparison to other rice varieties.
Factors to Consider for Aquaponic Rice Growth
When considering and growing aquaponics rice, you need to consider the following measures;
Growing rice in an aquaponic system will work with the use of a Media Bed or the Deep Water Culture. The Media Bed is filled with clay pebbles, lava rocks, or gravel. In the Deep Water Culture method, plants are suspended in polystyrene sheets making the roots hang down into the water. It is primarily ideal for regions with a warmer climate and best for commercial and large aquaponics.
The pH Level Consideration
Rice will require a pH level of about 6.5, especially for aquaponic gardens that are home-based.
The Grow Medium
Use perlite, synthetic foam, peat, or pumice as the rice grows medium for the best results. A foam raft should be used to float the seedlings on the water for them to absorb nutrients.
The Water and Air Temperature Requirements
Rice is semi-aquatic, and hence its growth requires more water. You have to ensure that there is always moisture in the soil. The air temperature should be kept at around eighty degrees Fahrenheit.
The seedlings should be spaced out in rows by about four inches. Once their height reaches five inches, they can be transplanted and a one-foot space left in between.
For optimal results, the rice should have exposure to sunlight for a minimum of about six to eight hours daily. Grow the rice in a warm place, for example, a greenhouse, under a grow bulb, or use a sun porch.
The Preferred Fish Types
When growing aquaponics rice, the best fish types are catfish and tilapia. Rice thrives in warmer temperature climates, and these fish will work well in the same conditions. Rice and tilapia will best grow with temperatures that are higher than eighty degrees. Goldfish, bass, crappie or brim fish types may be used. To supply additional fish nutrients, you can add rabbit or goat droppings.
Planting and Harvesting
It is recommended to start your planting during the fall and the spring seasons. Before planting the rice, it can be soaked in water for approximately twelve hours. Rice can be harvested when the stalks’ color changes from green to a golden color. This will usually occur three to four months after planting, depending on your location. Once you cut the stalks, wrap them in newspapers and dry them for two weeks.
Pests and Insects
Rice can be preyed on by different insects and pests. These will mainly include leaf folders, whorl maggots, and armyworms. If infected during the early development stages, the crop can still be able to recover.
Bacteria and Fungi
Choose a rice variety that is resistant to fungi and bacteria for cost-effectiveness and easier management.
There is no doubt that the aquaponic farming trend has eased some burden on food production. Rice is a major staple for most people, and it is highly versatile when it comes to culinary practices. Growing aquaponics rice comes with a lot of advantages, whether done on a small or large scale. The system ultimately improves productivity, creates new income sources, improves nutrition, and generates positive environmental factors.
The rice-fish system will provide the farmer with a continuous supply of fresh produce- fish, and rice. However, the system also requires a lot of care and maintenance. The farmer must keep all the needed factors- temperature, pH, and the environment controlled to attain optimal results. Once you choose to grow your rice in an aquaponic system, most importantly, bear in mind your needs and requirements.
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