After years of providing ample water for Arkansas’ rice fields, rice wells began coming up short for their growers in the 1970s. That coincided with the time Richard Morris, a fourth-generation rice farmer from Carlisle, Ark., began his farming career.
Morris, whose great-grandfather, John Morris, was one of the state’s first rice producers, put down a well that provided 1,000 gallons of water per minute. But two years later, it was no longer adequate. The development started Morris thinking about the use of surface water to meet his irrigation needs.
Now he provides all the water for his rice fields from two reservoirs on the farm he operates with his son, Matthew. “About 28 percent of the rainfall we receive annually falls during the growing season,” he said during a presentation at the Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference at Arkansas State University. “We have to be able to capture some of the other rainfall that occurs in other times of the year.”