A season of rice research data from a 38-acre plot in Phillips County may be lost to flooding.
“The Phillips County Rice Verification field is now completely flooded for a second time,” said Ralph Mazzanti, rice verification coordinator. “This could be a total loss this time.”
Rice verification program data is important for Arkansas, which is the nation’s leading rice producer. The research conducted by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture helps improve production techniques and test performance of rice strains.
“Through the Rice Verification Program, we have seen farm average yields increase by up to 30 percent,” said Chuck Wilson, interim director of the Rice Research and Extension Center. “The most valuable part of this program is neighbors learning from the success of their neighbors enrolled in the program. They see that the techniques and recommendations that are learned in these small plot tests can be applied to larger farms.
“Since 1983, we’ve directly reached more than 350 growers in this state. Farmers have told us this is one of the most valuable programs that we do.”
Though miles away from the bulging Mississippi, the big river’s domino effect upstream is to blame for the plot being submerged under about 15 inches of water. The plot, about one mile north of Oneida, is located near Big Creek, a waterway that swings through Phillips County on its way southward to the White River.
“Big Creek is backing up into it because the White River can’t drain,” said Robert Goodson, Phillips County Extension Agent. “And the White can’t drain because the Arkansas can’t drain into the Mississippi.”
Goodson said that about 30,000 acres of farmland was underwater in Phillips County.
A second verification field in Lee County is about one-third damaged.
“We must wait an see the extent of the damage and how the rice responds,” he said, adding “it does look rough and beat up.”
Verification plots north of I-40 were spared the damage send in the Lee and Phillips county plots.
In 2010, there were more than 1,200 acres of verification fields in 23 counties where seven different varieties were grown on a range of soil types. In 2011, there are approximately 1,400 acres.