Along with most of the state’s Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agents working in the rice-heavy counties of Arkansas, Herb Ginn won’t forget the 2015 planting season any time soon.
“Last year, we were really struggling,” said Ginn, Lawrence County staff chair. The northeastern Arkansas county is one of the top three rice-producing counties in the state. Halfway through May, growers in his county -- and throughout much of Arkansas -- were waiting out one rain spell after another, hoping for enough dry weather in between to get rice in the ground.
But in 2016, the weather has been so favorable for so many rice growers that planting progress has leapt ahead of the five-year average established by the USDA for mid-May, and several counties are now expecting more acreage to be dedicated to rice than growers originally declared in the early spring.
“Last year, we had around 89,000 acres of rice, and I think this year we’ll be over 100,000,” Ginn said. “We’ll be up more than 10 percent is my guesstimate. I am seeing a lot of rice.”
Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas Extension rice agronomist, said in years when rice planting is significantly delayed, many rice growers begin turning planned rice acreage over to soybeans as May gives way to June. But because so much of the state’s planned rice acreage was planted so early (the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated 96 percent complete as of May 15), some growers have actually purchased more rice and planted additional acres.
Hardke said based on activity witnessed throughout the state over the past four weeks, he is recalculating the state’s rice acreage from about 1.6 million acres to as many as 1.7 million acres. “If we hit 1.7 million acres, it would be the second-largest highest rice acreage we’ve ever had in the state, the first being in 2010 with 1.785 million. The mid-season weather has to cooperate of course, but in the grand scheme of things, the majority of acreage being planted this early would suggest that the table is set for a very positive yield year. Our production could be very high this year.”
The planting season has been favorable for other Arkansas commodity staples as well, including corn, cotton and soybeans, the progress of which are all far ahead of the USDA-recorded five-year averages.
To learn more about Arkansas commodities, contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent or visit www.uaex.edu.