A county where ducks tend to organic rice paddies

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-01 07:18

Every restaurant is remembered by its signature dish, while the rice is always forgotten.

But the quality of rice can influence the satisfaction of a meal.

People in the Huanren Manchu autonomous county in Northeast China's Liaoning province have long produced top-quality rice.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperor Tongzhi designated Huanren's paddies as guandi (official land), and the rice from there became a tribute.

It is said that if one family cooks the rice at home, the smell spreads to the entire village.

Now, an organic variety from Huanren has come to the domestic market.

And some of the rice was "raised" by ducks.

"We want to bring fresh rice to dinner tables all around the country," says Fu Rao, the manager of Mibole, the producer of the organic rice.

The 37-year-old used to work for an internet company in Beijing after he graduated from the Beijing Institute of Technology in 2003.

But he started to study rice cultivation in 2012 and built the Mibole Rice-Planting Base in Huanren in 2015 to grow quality organic rice.

Huanren is located in an area that's perfect for growing rice. It gets more than 2,500 hours of sunlight a year and has a 153-day frost-free season. Its black soil is rich and full of magnesium, which also gives flavor to the rice.

Raising ducks in paddies, however, is a challenge. But Fu took it on, since he read this is more environmentally friendly and organic.

Some 400 ducklings were placed in the fields on June 12, 10 days after the rice was transplanted.

According to Fu, the ducks were raised for 50 days, and they grew together with the rice while eating the grass and worms in the fields.

"The ducks wandering around in the fields helped dredge the rhizome," Fu says.

"Also, their manure is a natural fertilizer for the rice."

Lou Fugui, the retired deputy head of the Huanren agricultural technology promotion center, is helping Mibole.

With more than 30 years' rice-planting experience in Huanren, Lou knows every inch of the land.

"Planting rice is actually more about relying on the weather," says Lou.

"The rain affects the humidity."

"Rice with 14.5 to 16 percent moisture content has the best flavor, and that's what we are trying to reach."

The Mibole paddy is rented from local farmers, and they are hired to help tend to it.

Tang Lihua has rented out her field this year.

The rental plus the income she earns from helping Mibole harvest their rice is about the same as when she planted rice herself.

"But it's a lot easier as we don't have to be in the field year-round.

"When the others are busy taking care of their rice, my husband and I can do some part-time work and make extra money," the 47-year-old says. "I've tried the (Mibole) rice, and it tastes better than ours."

A county where ducks tend to organic rice paddies

(China Daily 12/01/2017 page19)

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