The most recent USDA numbers has Arkansas rice acreage pegged at 1.39 million acres.
“We’re about a week away from the first FSA acreage report,” says Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas Extension rice specialist, who is fresh off speaking at the Aug. 7 Arkansas Rice Expo. “Traditionally, that report hasn’t provided all the enrolled acreage regardless of crop. But it is a pretty good indicator of the direction we’re going.
“If the first report, for instance, says the state has only a million acres of rice, there’s no need to be worried. FSA will keep updating that figure each month until the final report is released in January.”
Before the USDA 1.39 million acres estimate was released, Hardke’s rough prediction was 1.35 million acres in the state. Based on that expectation, “a final reported acreage number between 1.3 and 1.4 million acres won’t be a surprise.”
As far as yield predictions, USDA’s newly released figure has Arkansas rice listed at 7,550 pounds per acre (or 167.8 bushels per acre). “In 2012-2014, we’ve had three straight years of record yields for the state: 166-, 168- and 168-bushels per acre. The current yield prediction of 167.8 bushels per acre seems high based on what we know about the 2015 season.
“While the early season conditions this year were similar to 2014, the later season conditions have not been. The conditions haven’t been terrible, but we moved out of the ideal temperature conditions for heading and late-season. The rice in the field still looks very good. But without the milder temperatures late-season like we’ve had in the recent past, it’s doubtful we’ll hit records.”
Add other potential factors that could reduce yields and a record is even less likely. “We’ve had less effective weed control – the crop seems grassier than in recent years. We just couldn’t get all of it under control. It wasn’t due to lack of effort, though. We’re hearing a bunch of reports from producers who have spent $100 to $150 per acre on herbicides in their rice. Conditions just weren’t right early to get the weeds at the proper size.
“There is no true ‘salvage’ application for weeds. Once a weed gets past a certain size, the herbicides are most likely not going to do anything but chase them with control sporadic at best.”
With commodity prices down, some producers cut other inputs early. Those included some at-planting fertilizer applications, says Hardke.
“Still, in the grand scheme, we have the potential to see a very good crop. But the overall yield number is not looking fantastic. If we hit 160 bushels for a state average, I’ll feel very good about it.”
What about a medium-grain acreage bump? Did that play out?
“We saw that bump but it wasn’t quite as high as I thought it would be early on. I was thinking we’d hit around 260,000 medium-grain acres pretty easily. USDA says the state is about 240,000 acres and I’m in agreement based on the number I have.
“That’s around a 25,000-acre increase so that’s pretty healthy, although not a huge surge. One thing that walked back medium-grain expectations was the lack of contracts for the rice this year. Lack of contracts likely helped suppress medium grain acres. A lot of producers won’t touch medium grain without that contract.”
What about pest pressures this season?
“There’s some interesting data Gus Lorenz and I have seen from research we’ve done this year looking at insecticide seed treatments. We haven’t harvested this year’s plots yet, obviously, but we’ve pulled soil cores for rice water weevil and grape colaspis.
“This involves a seed treatment planting date study. So, we had three seed insecticide treatments used in rice: CruiserMaxx Rice, Dermacor, and NipsIt. Those three were planted at six different dates.
“We had good rice water weevil numbers in our early planting dates and the number increased over time to being extremely high in our latest planting dates in June, as high as 120 larvae in a 4-inch soil core sample.
“That’s just an incredible number of larvae in a small area. By comparison, the numbers were very low in all the plots with insecticide seed treatments. That helps to illustrate the value of these insecticide seed treatments over time.
“Every piece of really good research has a certain level of serendipity to it. As we planted these plots this year, a lot of the early rice began to come up around the station and we noticed that grape colaspis was wearing the plants out. You could look down and see last year’s soybean rows and see the plants were just dead.”
Grape colaspis occurs sporadically but can be devastating to rice stands. “Well, we ended up with them in our planting date plots as well. So, we found out there was actually a time period when grape colaspis cycled out and we couldn’t find them in our rice plots anymore.
“That was a surprise. We thought colaspis would hang around until they had an adequate food source like rice. Then, they would grow on out and cycle to adults. So, this year showed us some interesting things about the biology of these pests. Ultimately we had greater combined pressure from grape colaspis and rice water weevil early, but as grape colaspis played out rice water weevil numbers increased. So the benefits of insecticide seed treatments continue to important across planting dates but the makeup of the insect pests we’re controlling changes over time.”