The agricultural tourism season is in full swing and colorful rice paddies in three areas of the nation have been attracting attention in recent weeks.
Unique patterns have been created in rice paddies in Greater Tainan, Miaoli and Yunlin counties from Japonica and Indica rice strains, which are characterized by strong colors, local agricultural officials said.
In Tainan, for example, a pattern featuring an image of a water buffalo created from purple Indica and green Japonica rice varieties can be visited free of charge until the end of next month, by which time the design will have grown out.
It took Lo Cheng-tsung (羅正宗), a director at the Tainan District Agricultural Research and Extension Station, four months to design a water buffalo on a computer and replicate it in a 1.77 hectare rice paddy.
“I am not that impressed with my own work,” said Lo, who had never designed a rice paddy mural before.
“The buffalo looks too thin to me,” he said.
Nevertheless, hundreds of tourists have flocked to see his creation, enjoying both the unique artwork and the rustic charm of the countryside. Lo and other officials said they want to continue to explore the potential of agricultural tourism and perhaps develop a new business model.
“If you treat the rice paddies as billboards, a whole new niche market could be created,” said Chang Su-chen (張素貞), a researcher at a government agricultural station in Miaoli.
Chang said the station is encouraging farmers to work with interested individuals or companies to grow specially designed rice paddies.
Patterns could include a company logo, a simple picture or even a marriage proposal. Such rice murals could turn traditional villages into tourist attractions, Chang said. She also said farmers will benefit from the potential partnerships due to the fees they could be paid and because they could sell the colored rice after the pattern has grown out. The technological skill to create a blueprint of a design will be provided by the agricultural station for free, Chang said.
To allow more room for creativity, Chang said, she and her colleagues are also working to develop more colorful rice types.
“We have created white and light-yellow strains so far,” she said. “We will be able to treat the rice paddies as real canvases in the near future.”