|Farmers harvest ‘floating rice' in Vi Thuy District, Hau Giang Province. The rotating cultivation of floating-rice and cash crops on rice fields during the flooding season has fetched high profits for farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
HCM CITY (VNS) — The rotating cultivation of floating-rice and cash crops on rice fields during the flood season in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta has brought high profits to local farmers.
The tops of floating-rice varieties, which are planted in the flooding season and mature within six months, "float" above the water as they grow 10-15 cm a day.
Speaking at a seminar held in An Giang Province last Tuesday, Dang Thi Thanh Quynh of An Giang University's Rural Development and Research Centre, said rotating the cultivation of floating-rice and cash crops on rice fields yielded higher profits than planting of two to three rice crops a year.
"This profit does not even include extra income that farmers get from catching fish and other aquatic species in floating-rice fields, as the fields attract more fish in the flood season," she said.
Floating-rice varieties have a low yield of 2-2.5 tonnes per ha, but the rice is sold at a price about three times higher than short-term rice varieties (which mature in three months).
Traders buy floating-rice directly at fields for VND10,000-12,000 a kilo. The rice, which is known for its delicious flavour, is in high demand because it is free of pesticides and fertilisers.
Production costs for growing floating-rice are low, as farmers sow the rice once in either May or June (on the lunar calendar) before the flood season and do not need to fertilise or tend the rice until harvest.
The rice grows as the floodwaters increase, and after the water recedes, floating- rice feeds on soil.
After harvesting the rice, farmers can grow crash crops like oriental onions, red chilli and cassava on the rice fields, which are fertile with silt brought from floodwaters.
On 1,000sq.m of floating-rice fields, farmers can earn an average profit of VND24.3 million (US$1,100) from growing oriental onion, VND16.5 million ($760) from growing red chilli and VND3.1 million ($150) from growing cassava.
Nguyen Van Nao, who grows floating-rice and cassava on 4ha in Tri Ton District's Vinh Phuoc Commune in An Giang Province, said he earned a profit of VND55 million ($2,600) per hectare last year.
In contrast, farmers who grew three rice crops a year in An Giang said they earned a profit of VND40-45 million (US$1,900-2,100) per hectare last year.
Le Cong Quyen of the An Giang University's Agriculture and Natural Resources Faculty said floating-rice fields contained up to 49 flora and 35 fish species.
"Some fish species that have high value like black shark minnow, featherback and freshwater toadfish are also found in floating-rice fields," he said.
In the Delta, floating-rice is grown on nearly 100ha and 20ha in An Giang and Dong Thap provinces, respectively. The two provinces have the highest level of floodwaters in the south.
In An Giang, floating-rice is grown mostly in Tri Ton District's Vinh Phuoc and Luong An Tra communes. Floating-rice varieties in Tri Ton include Bong Sen, Chet Cut, Nang Tay Nut, Nang Pha, Lai Duoi.
Ly Van Chinh, head of the Tri Ton Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said the district planned to increase the area for rotating floating-rice and cash crops to 200ha in 2015-16 and to 500ha in 2030.
Nguyen Van Kien, director of the An Giang University's Rural Development and Research Centre, said the restoration of floating-rice cultivation was important to preserve the genes of floating-rice varieties.
Floating-rice paddies create space for storing flood water, which limits breakage of dykes and creates living places for fish and other aquatic species.
Kien said his centre would restore floating-rice varieties by purifying their seeds as they are now mixed with other rice varieties.
An Giang's Chau Phu District is planning to revive a part of its previous floating-rice area.
Before 1975, the delta's floating-rice area was about 500,000ha. Of the figure, An Giang accounted for more than 50 per cent.
Because of national food security, the delta at that time increased cultivation of short-term rice varieties, which reduced the area of floating-rice dramatically.
Last year, the Rural Development and Research Centre offered farmers in Tri Ton support to develop floating-rice cultivation.
Twenty-one households were provided with techniques and financial support to set up co-operative teams to grow floating-rice.
The cultivation area of floating-rice in Tri Ton increased from 43 ha last year to 92 ha this year. The 92 ha will be harvested by the end of lunar November (about mid-January 2015). — VNS