A stop-and-go start to the growing season has impacted all Delta crops. So, how is rice doing?
The week of May 11, the USDA has Arkansas at 86 percent planted.
“That should put us at just over 1.25 million planted rice acres right now working off of the March prospective plantings says Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas Extension rice agronomist. “I think that assessment is pretty accurate.”
At the moment, the state is largely at a standstill following rains from May 8 through 10. “That’s kept us from actively planting much this week. But that slowdown comes after our planted percentage jumped from 37 percent to, two weeks later, 86 percent. We put in half the crop in 14 days and that’s impressive.”
There have been a lot of early-season issues with the rice crop, says Hardke. “A lot of them have to do with general stand establishment problems. Seedling disease is part of that, but so is the recent wet weather and cool temperatures. There was also a very rapid dry down – it suddenly turned warm and windy – and we lost moisture in the top layer.
“This season is turning out kind of erratic. After the most recent rains, it turns out there was still viable seed planted. It just hadn’t come up yet. So, we’re seeing a number of fields with three- and four-leaf rice with new rice emerging right beside it.
"Of course, that will make things interesting going forward in terms of in-season management. Certainly, the rice that’s furthest along is what you have to make your primary management decisions on – that’s your main crop.
"That late-emerging rice can actually act as sort of a weed in some cases, a drag on the main crop. Hopefully, it will catch up and produce some grain at the end.”
Those that were fortunate to get their rice planted in early April “are leaning toward the back end of when we prefer to put out our nitrogen fertilizer and go to flood. It just isn’t dry enough to go now and the 10-day forecast doesn’t look good. That’ll force us to again make the best of a bad situation.”
It’s better to put nitrogen on slightly wet ground as opposed to being really late, says Hardke. “I know some producers are flying nitrogen on today and moving forward although they’d like the ground to be drier in order to get better incorporation.
“It’s not efficient to put nitrogen into water or mud. We don’t like asking people to do that. But for those enrolled in the DD50 program, once you are at, or moving past, the final recommended time to apply nitrogen pre-flood, you have to get it out somehow. The plant simply has to have the nitrogen and if you don’t provide it, the crop can face serious harm and a lack of recovery time. Time is the enemy.”
One advantage of the wet spring: weed control is working in most fields. “Herbicide activation looks really good, right now. I find the occasional ragged field but those are outliers. Fields are clean except for some winter annuals that are yet to die off. The flood should get those.”
What about medium-grain acreage?
“We think there will be a slight uptick in acreage. I thought we’d plant 225,000 to 230,000 medium-grain acres. We were at around 215,000 acres in 2014.
“However, with all the fluctuations in the market, including medium-grain, and the drivers for that, I’m not confident in that prediction. It’s been so variable in people’s response as to planting intentions. This year has been wild but I’ve heard quite a few producers have been trying to get ahold of Clearfield 271, but I don’t know exactly how much CL271 is available this year.
“Some companies aren’t taking Caffey, a really good medium-grain, but it’s still being grown in the state. In addition to the market issues, it also doesn’t have some of the characteristics that makes Jupiter safer. Jupiter is one of the few varieties that has moderate resistance to bacterial panicle blight.”
Hardke also warns there are some pests producers should be on the lookout for. “On some of the research plots – yield plots that didn’t receive any insecticide seed treatments - on the rice station outside Stuttgart, we’ve found a severe bean-row effect from grape colaspis damage. If the pest level gets high, the damage is always striking. Those yield plots are a loss – big holes in them.
“The threat of grape colaspis is out there. I’ve heard from producers saying they’re cutting back on seed treatments this year. Unfortunately there aren’t many options for managing grape colaspis once the damage is found.”