Combines began rolling in Mississippi Delta rice fields as soon as growers marked the beginning of August, but wet weather soon shut down early harvest attempts.
Bobby Golden, a rice and soil fertility agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said yields are expected to be favorable when fields are dry enough for harvest, though overall acreage will be down this year.
“Our early crop, most of which was planted in late March and early April, looks good so far,” he said. “Most rice was planted between April 15 and May 1, and that crop may be especially good with the low nighttime temperatures we saw in early August.”
Golden, who is based at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said the three-year average rice yield is about 159 bushels per acre. He said he expects producers will harvest that much or a little more.
“Most of the crop was planted on time, but we had a lot of early-season weather issues that delayed preparatory work such as levee construction and fertilizer application,” Golden said. “We had enough good weather in the weeks leading up to the early August rains to make up for the issues we had early on.”
Mississippi producers grew 194,000 acres of rice last year. They planted an average of 180,700 acres from 2010-15, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Golden said this year’s harvest will be in the range of 100,000 to 115,000 acres.
The Aug. 7 USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report indicated that 91 percent of the rice crop was headed, with 20 percent mature. According to the report, 64 percent of the state’s crop was either in good or excellent condition, with 35 percent classified as fair.
Rice market improves
The rice market outlook is also sunnier now than three months ago, as futures have climbed steadily since they were trading for less than $10 per hundredweight in May.
“September rice futures are currently trading for around $12.20 per hundredweight, which is quite a bit higher than a year ago when they were trading for around $9.65 per hundredweight,” said Extension agricultural economist Brian Williams. “The most recent estimates are expecting national rice production of around 186 million hundredweight this year compared to 224 million hundredweight a year ago.”
While the 2017 U.S. rice harvest will be down from 2016, global production is up, which could keep prices from increasing for the rest of the year. The value of last year’s production in Mississippi was $139 million.
“A big part of what is driving markets higher is a significant reduction in acres due to spring flooding in Arkansas and Missouri,” Williams said. “Harvested acres were reduced by 123,000 acres as a result. With that being said, global production is expected to be at near-record levels this year.”