Farmer Nguyễn Văn Tùng is standing at his black rice field in Nhị Mỹ Commune, Cao Lãnh District of the southern province of Đồng Tháp. — Photo nld.com.vn
ĐỒNG THÁP — In a black rice field in Nhị Mỹ Commune, Cao Lãnh District of the southern province of Đồng Tháp, farmer Nguyễn Văn Tùng removes weed by hand and take notes about the rice’s growth day by day.
He also uses nets to stop insects from damaging the rice, not chemical fertiliser.
Black rice is not a variety native to the southern province. Two years ago, Tùng heard about black rice cultivation in the northern province of Bắc Giang. Seeing an increasing demand for organic rice, Tùng travelled north and met with Nguyễn Thị Thành Thực, a member of the executive committee of the Việt Nam Digital Agriculture Association and the first person who brought black rice to grow in Bắc Giang.
Returning to his hometown in Đồng Tháp with 10 kilos of black rice seeds, Tùng and his wife started growing the rice in the summer-autumn crop 2020. However, the crop failed, likely due to the climatic differences between the southwestern region and northern region.
Undeterred, Tùng tried again in the winter-spring crop 2020-2021. With an adjusted farming technique, the black rice grew much better in Đồng Tháp's soil.
“Growing black rice is much different from growing conventional rice,” Tùng said, explaining that he had to use organic fertiliser on the soil before transplanting seedlings.
Only four kilos of seeds were used on the area of more than 1,000 sq.m. During the cultivation, the water level in the field had to be adjusted to minimise the growth of weeds and preserve good insects, Tùng said.
“My farming method was at first very strange to many local farmers,” Tùng said.
In the winter-spring crop 2020-2021, Tùng harvested about 3.5 tonnes of black rice from his 1.5ha field.
The rice productivity was not high but it tasted much better and was stickier than other varieties, Tùng said.
As the black rice was more nutritious than other rice varieties, it could be sold at higher prices, Tùng said.
With the black rice, Tùng and his wife made sprout rice tea and black rice powder which sold well in HCM City and Bình Dương Province.
Before black rice, Tùng and his wife started farming organic rice in 2016 with Akita Komachi – a Japanese rice variety.
“In the first season, I used pesticides as normal but the Japanese rice variety did not grow well with chemical products,” Tùng said, remembering that nearly 2,000 sq.m of rice died soon after he sprayed the pesticides.
He and his wife kept researching and adjusting their farming technique.
After four seasons, Tùng mastered growing the Japanese rice organically.
In 2019, his Akita Komachi rice grown in Đồng Tháp won the third prize in the province’s first rice contest.
With the two organic rice varieties, Tùng is determined to make them the signature farming product of its hometown.
He plans to register his rice with the One Commune-One Product programme which promotes outstanding farming products across the country.
Huỳnh Thanh Sơn, head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Cao Lãnh District, said Tùng’s black rice was healthy for consumers and could generate high economic efficiency.
Tùng’s work could inspire other farmers to go organic, Sơn said.
He added that the district authorities would support the expansion of the farming model, facilitating the consumption and promotion of organic farming products. —VNS