Loto Upland Rice
Origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~70
80 days to flower, 110 days to ripe seed (Vermont).
'Loto' is a short-grained, "arborio"-type rice perfect for risotto. From the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, it has been known to thrive under dryland conditions as far north in the United States as Vermont. Loto grows to roughly three feet tall and is highly resistant to lodging (falling over). The flavor is excellent, and the seeds are relatively easy to de-hull.
This variety was identified as winner and brought to our attention by Sylvia Davatz, seed grower and long-time manager of the Solstice Seed Catalogue, based out of Vermont. Over the years she had trialed many different upland rice varieties and found this one to be the most impressive. In 2018, Sylvia and EFN co-founder Dusty Hinz collaborated on a 'Loto' variety trial project, which focused on enlisting more growers in the northeast and upper midwest to grow the variety. The link to that Experimental Farm Network project page can be found on our social network website here:
We plan to continue this project, and we are hoping we can gather more data from more growers in the years to come. Buy this seed here, then create a profile on our website and join the upland rice project! Our seed was grown by Professor James Tuten of Juniata College in central Pennsylvania, who was a 2018 upland rice project participant. Professor Tuten is a noted expert in Atlantic rice culture, and author of the book, Lowcountry Time and Tide: The Fall of the Rice Kingdom.
GROWING INSTRUCTIONS FROM SYLVIA (this worked in Vermont, so adjust accordingly):
Soak rice seed in small containers in at least 1⁄2 inch of water to cover. Monitor and refresh the water as needed every couple of days. The rice will take from 5 to 10 days to germinate. You will see a tiny white sprout at one end of the seed. This is not the root, but will develop into the first green leaf. The root will appear later at the same end of the seed, but opposite the leaf shoot, and will be a thin white thread. You can transplant when the first leaf shoot is about 1/4 inch long, you do not need to wait for the radicle to appear, just make sure you plant with the shoot side up.
Third Week in April
Pot up the sprouted seeds at the two-leaf stage, using regular organic potting mix, into individual cells. These do not need to be large, 9-packs work well. If you are growing a dryland variety, keep the soil moist but do not saturate it.
After all Danger of Frost
Transplant directly out into the garden in well-worked, moderately fertile soil. In my garden this is around the first week in June. I generally plant about 8 to 10 inches apart in all directions. Keep the soil mulched and evenly moist, at least until the plants are established. Saturate the soil during panicle primordia, or the period of time when the panicle is forming inside the stem. Cold nights during flowering will lead to blank spikelets. The variety Loto produced very well even with no special attention or irrigation during the 2016 summer drought.
First harvest of 'Loto' will be around the second week in September. Ideally, harvest the rice when at least 2/3 of the grains on each stem have dried down and turned an even beige color. This is not always possible since birds and chipmunks are attracted to rice. Also, rice plants will not survive frost. If necessary, harvest when grains are still faintly green. If you need to do this, be sure to do a germination test of the greenest kernels so you can identify any unviable grain.
Threshing is simple and just involves removing the mature grains from their stems. There are foot-powered peddle threshers on the market. Milling is more complicated (removing the hull from each grain) and requires special equipment. Ideally, milling occurs right before consumption.
-Benito S. Vergara. A Farmer’s Primer on Growing Rice. International Rice Research Institute.
-System of Rice Intensification. (SRI). This is a method of growing irrigated rice with reduced water and increased yield. The methods are applicable to dryland rice production and are being adapted to production of wheat and some vegetables.
-Brillengineering.com. Site that contains description of and instructions for building a hand-powered table top or bicycle-powered rice de-huller.