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Growing rice in Canada – some hopeful signs

November 27, 2009

Well, who would have ever thought it…  my rice plants are blooming! Here, in Tofino, in November!

I brought them inside at the end of summer – you can read about them up to that point in my September 5th blog entry.  I thought that was that – a “technical success” in that I had plants, but no actual rice.  But the plants were just too beautiful to throw out, so I brought them inside, to the south-facing window in my bedroom.

I didn’t think that the plants were doing much there, but now looking back to those September photos I can see that they have definitely bushed out.  Interestingly, I left one bucket of plants downstairs, on my heated tile floor at my front entrance: more heat, much less light.  Those plants have died.  So clearly the light is what they really need.

I haven’t paid a real lot of attention to them – not even watering them to the point of keeping them always saturated like before (I wonder if that is what has stressed them to bloom?).  But they’ve been looking great…  And then, this morning, I went for a closer look and noticed that two of the plants (of a total of  12) have little blooms coming out – and it looks like  few more will bloom soon.

So, the Tofino rice experiment is not yet over!  I don’t anticipate getting more than a tablespoon or so of rice – but even if I can start to select for a line that is more cold-tolerant and faster-maturing, well… that will be a good start.

Next year I will do two things differently:

1.  I will try to get a seed that is already from a colder climate (these were from California; I’ll see if I can get some from Japan).

2.  And now that I have a garden in sunny Port Alberni, I will move some of my plants out there to see how they do.

And you know what is the most interesting thing about this?  On this blog, I can check the stats, to find out what search terms people are using to find my site.  And you know what the most common search term that leads people here is?  “Growing rice in Canada”.  So, even though this is not being talked about a lot in the media, it is pretty clear that it is on a lot of people’s minds.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens, so be sure to check back!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. greg blanchette permalink
    December 21, 2009 3:22 pm

    Hey, Jack-o
    I’ve been wondering about your rice. I eat a lot of it, all imported of course, and none grown any closer than California, far as i can tell. When climate-induced food changes come along … what’ll be the starch of choice around here? Skunk cabbage root. (The Brits call them “swamp lantern,” much tastier sounding.)

    You’re right — food *is* on a lot of peoples’ minds these days, though apparently not our national leaders.

    Keep us posted.

    • December 21, 2009 6:27 pm

      I’ll definitely keep y’all posted.

      Most of my 12 rice plants have now bloomed or are about to bloom. I think they really liked that sunny stretch we had earlier in the month. I expect to get maybe a tablespoon of rice from this whole exercise? Well, if I can make sure they pollinate…

      I am working on sourcing some rice seed from Kazakhstan – grown at latitude 48ºN (we’re 49º here) and presumably at some altitude, it should be pretty acclimatized to our cooler growing conditions. Will report all results here, of course.

  2. April 10, 2010 1:21 pm

    I am trying to grow short grain rice in Ireland this season. I am at 52ºN but the gulf stream stops the summers from being as cold as that would imply. It’s still a long shot though.

    I germinated a Japonica variety that I eat that is grown in Italy but it is only progressing very slowly. I have planted them in trays and keep them in a plastic mini-greenhouse like contraption out the back. This stops them from getting too cold at night and really heats them up to where they need to be during the day. I’ll write about the progress/failure over the next few months on my blog.

    There does not seem to be many people attempting to grow rice in colder climates as we are, so I look forward to reading about any further efforts you make.

  3. Andrew permalink
    March 30, 2011 4:32 am

    Hi,

    I’ll be interested to hear if you’re still reading these.

    We undertook a commercial rice cultivation trial in Quebec last summer – and will be further expanding it next summer.

    Email me if you’re interested.

    Andrew

  4. David permalink
    February 23, 2012 10:01 am

    well Andrew i think anyone reading this, would be interested, why not post results for all to see. so far it seems not profitabe to do this but, do have interest in trying to grow a few plants here in Toronto for fun and see what happens.
    David

  5. October 10, 2012 5:54 pm

    Japanese rice is different; it is a short grain species. There is a book written by this Japanese guy, Mr. Fukuoka. He was able to grow rice using neither tilling nor flooding! I suppose rice is just like wheat, except that it grows really slowly when the weather is too cool . It is also much less winter hardy and drought tolerant than wheat.

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