THE Riverina rice harvest is tipped to be the largest in three years with a yield of 800,000 tonnes. 

Tom Howard

Tom Howard

This is an increase of about 200 per cent from last year. 

SunRice general manager grower services and agronomic development, Tom Howard said the crop last year was small at 245,000 tonnes. 

He attributed spring rain and 100 per cent water allocations across the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys for the higher tonnage this season. 

Some new varieties were also made available to growers.

“It is encouraging to see rice play a bigger role in the irrigation programs,” Mr Howard said. 

“Having an ideal planting window up to a month after mainstream varieties opens up the opportunity to plant a rice crop after a winter crop,” he said. 

Riverina growers have harvested canola, oats, barley, hay and even wheat, and have planted a rice crop into the same paddock within a few days.

Meanwhile, rice grower James Salvestro and his son Anthony and long-time employee Glen Bavaresco, is growing  50 hectares of the new YRM70 variety, alongside 108ha of Topaz and 32ha of Sherpa.

He said the new variety was a “game changer” for his property near Hanwood, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. “We’ve kicked off harvest and after a very cold and late start we’re really pleased with the way all our rice is looking,” Mr Salvestro said.

“In addition to our usual program we were able to take advantage of late water allocations and increase our rice area by planting short season rice (YRM70) after our canola,” he said.

“It’s looking great and we’re now confident to grow any winter crop, including wheat, and know we can follow it with rice,” he said. The Riverina harvest is expected to be complete in May and sowing of the winter crops in dryland areas is well underway. It is tipped that most growers are on track to meet the traditional Anzac Day sowing deadline.