Breton farmer hails success growing rice

But there is no need for Brittany paddy fields as rice grows like wheat

12 May 2017
By Connexion journalist

A Breton farmer has turned global warming to his advantage – and started growing rice.

The well-named Alexandre Reis, who farms at Evran, near Dinan in Côtes-d'Armor, told journalists the idea came to him a few years ago when he noticed summers were getting warmer and thought of rice as an ideal product to replace wheat or corn.

At first he tried to copy oriental paddy fields and flood a small section of a field, but it was a disaster and nothing grew.

But a report in the north-west of France newspaper Ouest-France caught the eye of other farmers and agronomists (agricultural engineers) and he was advised to try again but copy African rice farmers who said ‘dry farming’ could work, as for wheat.

The ground still needs watering, as for wheat, but he got his first crop from the 200m2 plot. It is emerald green, not white like oriental rice.

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A neighbour, Mai Gauthier, who is from a Vietnamese family and the wife of the local mayor, tasted the first grains and pronounced it “beautiful and good”.

She told Ouest France that some of her family still grows rice in Vietnam and she was happy to be able to join in the first harvest.

Now Mr Reis is testing to see which varieties of rice grow best on his land where he is preparing to plant 6,000m2 and says that climate projections say that Brittany in 30 years could be as hot as northern Portugal.

He is looking at those coming from northern Asia, which has a climate more like Brittany, and his first harvest has already produced an exceptional crop – 10 times more than from a paddy field.

And, to celebrate, he told the paper he had a mind to try the rice that is used for sake…

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