After a 2015 season that left many Arkansas rice producers feeling kicked in the gut, 2016 doesn’t look to offer much relief. Rice looks to be the best smelling pig in the pen in terms of penciling out profitability, but margins are tight there as well. This year we’ll need to make every penny count. That means managing risk. We’re not looking for a homerun this year; we’re looking to cover all the bases and keep the game going.
To manage risk we need to get back to basics. Try to spread out planting dates -- planting earlier does produce higher yields but often carries increased input costs along with it. Last season many didn’t get a chance to spread anything out, you either planted in that 10-14 day window or you didn’t plant. Yes those situations happen, but that window happened at the end of April when it was clear we needed to plant and not wait. Right now, while it’s early, you still have to stick with Plan A; don’t jump to Plan B before we even get to A. Reflective of the truly odd year that 2015 was, those who were delayed until almost May in planting frequently had higher yields than those who planted weeks earlier; however, this should be considered a great exception and not the rule. Let’s start by trying to spread out our planting dates a little – especially if you’re going to try and plant some really early. Determine the maximum acres that you would consider planting early and then stick with that number. Remember that the optimum recommended planting window has two boundaries for a reason.
Speaking of seed – just treat it. The use of insecticide and fungicide seed treatments may provide one of the greatest returns on investment in rice production. Based on 200-plus observations since 2008, insecticide seed treatments provide a positive return 80 percent of the time with an average yield increase of over 8 bushels per acre. The average cost of the insecticide is equivalent to a little over 2 bushels – that’s an average return on investment of 6 bushels.