Agronomic research was carried out on upland rice in Toledo District, Belize, in 1979–86, with the objective of improving returns from the traditional system of shifting cultivation and of examining the potential for reducing the demand for new land by cropping for more than one season. The rice was grown in the wet season on land cleared from forest by slash and burn, using a traditional planting technique, placing seed in holes made with a pointed stick.
In a series of fertilizer experiments, in which rice was grown for up to 7 consecutive years, urea and triple superphosphate both increased grain yield, whereas muriate of potash had no effect. Mean yield in the fifth year was 85 % of that in the first. Urea and triple superphosphate both increased the number of full grains/panicle.
A slash and mulch weed control treatment before sowing resulted in low yields of grain in the third year; yield after the use of propanil and 2,4-D (after sowing) was, on average, 77% of the yield after hand weeding; omitting weed control after sowing led to very low yields, particularly in the second and third years.
In the varieties Bluebonnet and C22, grain yield was increased by reducing the distance between stations, particularly where 6, rather than 15, seeds were sown per station. Reducing the distance between stations increased the leaf area index during crop development and the number of panicles/m2, which more than counterbalanced reductions in the number and area of leaf blades per plant, the number of panicles per plant and the number of full grains per panicle. However, the yield/kg of seed sown and per hour spent planting was greatest at the widest spacing. C22 produced more panicles per plant and a greater weight of grain per plant and per hectare than Bluebonnet.
It was concluded that returns from the traditional system can be improved and the demand for new land reduced.