State and Regional Rice Crop on Track

Thursday, June 14, 2018
Rice crops in Clay County, such as this field east of McDougal, are about two weeks ahead of schedule for the 2018 growing season.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Taken into account as the nation’s No. 1 rice producer, Arkansas can have an outsized effect on U.S. rice production one year to the next, depending on fates largely tied to the weather. And, according to officials 2018 is shaping up to be anything but simple — or predictable.

“The rice crop looks great at the moment, but it’s been a difficult season,” said Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “One of the coldest Aprils on record followed by the hottest May on record has a lot to do with it.”

As of last week, nearly 100 percent of planned rice acreage throughout the state had already emerged, with growers rating 70 percent of the crop as being in “good” or “excellent” condition, according to the June 4 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

But cool weather and rain in April hindered the application — and likely the effectiveness — of herbicides, which may have consequences later in the season,” Hardke said.

“Emergence on early planted rice was extremely delayed by the cold April weather and so we didn’t benefit much from early residual herbicide applications,” he said. “Once we got to May and things warmed up and dried out, they stayed dry and our herbicides didn’t work very well again. Many acres also needed to be flushed to relieve the drought stress conditions and to activate residual herbicides.”

Sporadic rains also interfered with the crop’s ideal fertilization window, leaving growers to try to “play catch-up” during a recent window of dry weather.

Here in Clay County many producers have been able to take advantage of the early planting season, and are now well ahead of schedule.

“The early planted rice is approaching mid-season. There are several mid-season fertilizer applications scheduled for this week and next week,” noted Allison Howell, Clay County Extension Agent, Agriculture. “There are a wide range of maturities this year, but it is all growing very rapidly. The rice is around two weeks ahead of schedule because of the hot temperatures.”

Howell noted local rice farmers continue to maintain, and have not reported many issues.

“So far we haven’t had any disease or insect problems and everything seems to be going pretty well,” she concluded.

The June 2, storm which impacted several areas throughout northeastern Arkansas, particularly St, Francis County between Colt and Forest City, appears to have done relatively little damage to rice growers, although a full assessment of crop damage is incomplete.

“The area that was most impacted was relatively small,” Hardke said. “I know there were some levee issues, but it was a smaller scale and a not all rice in the area has gone to flood yet.”

Hardke said the recent high heat, dry conditions and variable winds have also resulted in some reports of off-target herbicide drift.

One measure of the extremity of the 2018 season is the DD50 program, which measures days during which the temperature rises about 50 degrees Fahrenheit to predict the growth of rice.

“In April, we accumulated the fewest DD50 units in the past 30 years. In May we accumulated the most DD50 units in the past 30 years,” Hardke said.

“Quite a swing. What a season,” he said. “And we’re not even halfway through.”

Those wanting to learn more about row crops in Arkansas may contact their local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Howell may be reached at he Piggott office at 870 598-2246.

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