It’s SOWING time in Tartana Rice, in the Albufera of Valencia.
How was it done back in the old days? All rice fields were planted by hand. Crews of day laborers from inland Valencia and the peninsula were hired to carry out these tasks. They would sleep in huts, barracks and barns scattered throughout the Albufera, where they would spend long journeys. 10 men could plant about 1 hectare per day.
The small plants would grow in nurseries in the high areas of the Natural Park towards the end of March (in small orchard fields, outside the marsh) easily flooded and with favorable climatic conditions. After five / six weeks, the seedlings were pulled up by hand into sheaves (or bundles of plants), and transported to the fields with barges through the entire system of canals and ditches designed by the Arabs. Once put at the edge of the rice fields, the sheaves were distributed within the fields with the help of “garbejadoras” (or skid with sliding load on the mud) drawn by horses. The crews were planting the plots from front to back, so they did not spoil the work just done.
How is it done nowadays? We sow directly in early May. A tractor equipped with thin rubber or iron wheels so can be able to travel without getting stuck in the flooded rice fields, is distributing / spreading the seed with a seeder machine. The vehicle works self-guided by means of GPS technology to guarantee a uniform seed distribution. The seed is soaked a couple of days before in water so it gains weight and, when scattered, it does not float on the water and fall to the bottom of the earth. Thus, less seed is lost, eaten by the birds.
When did the system change from manual to direct sowing? When the harvester machine appeared in the 60s. Rice sown directly is not possible to mow by hand due to the excess density of plants in the fields. When the machine arrived, it was ablet to harvest a thick blanket of plants.
Article written by Juan Carlos GALBIS -Master of rice masters-, José ZAFRA, -passionate about rice- y Juan Valero -Gerente de ARROZ TARTANA-.
Artículo redactado por Juan Carlos GALBIS -Maestro de maestros arroceros-, José ZAFRA, -apasionado de los arroces- y Juan Valero -Gerente de ARROZ TARTANA-.