Matching Wits with Mother Nature

Carroll Smith, Editor

Carroll Smith, Editor

“One of the things that I enjoy is the challenge of Mother Nature,” says Nik Wallenda, a 35-year-old American acrobat, aerialist, daredevil and high-wire artist. Described as “The King of the Wire,” he is known for his high-wire performances without a safety net.

Among his many feats, he has traversed the Allegheny River, Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. Nik likens growing up in the Wallenda family, who has been performing since the 1700s, to “standing on the shoulders of giants. They’ve created a legacy that has gone on for seven generations, and I’ve been able to continue it along.”

Although planting and producing a rice crop is not done on a high-wire hundreds of feet in the air, it may sometimes feel like it when the challenges of Mother Nature come into play. And, in my opinion, another similarity of rice farmers to “The King of the Wire,” is the desire to carry on a legacy, which, in many cases, spans several generations in rice, despite what Mother Nature may pull out of her bag of tricks to deter them. And, believe me, the old lady can come up with some doozies.

For instance, this year in Louisiana, she delivered loads of ice and snow with reckless abandon from the end of January all the way to March 4. Dr. John Saichuk, Louisiana rice specialist notes, “Icicles on Mardi Gras was a first for me!” On the other end of the spectrum, Mother Nature has tortured rice farmers in Texas and California with a long, seemingly never-ending drought.

In his Specialists Speaking comments this month, Dr. Mo Way, Texas rice research entomologist, says, “It looks like for the third straight year, water will not be released from Lakes Travis and Buchanan for our rice farmers in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda Counties. These lakes are now at about 38 percent capacity.” In California, Dr. Bruce Lindquist, UCCE rice specialist, adds, “This year is shaping up to be one of the driest on record for California, and it is likely that agriculture water deliveries will be restricted. If that is the case, then “What is the least amount of water I can grow rice with without hurting yields?”

It’s no secret that water is the driving force of nature, and the good news is that those involved with the rice industry across the United States are not giving up. They intend to match wits with Mother Nature rather than give in to her whims.

To get details on some of the strategies being suggested for dealing with water where there is an abundance or projects that are underway to provide water where more is needed, check out the article on page 8 and the Specialists Speaking column on page 16.

Managing water for rice may not be done from a high-wire, but it is definitely a balancing act in our industry.