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By Ryan McGeeneyThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
LITTLE ROCK — Continuing spring rains throughout Arkansas have put rice growers behind
their planting schedule, particularly in the northern half of the state, experts with
the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said this week.
For the week ending April 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that planting
for five Arkansas crops — corn, cotton, rice, sorghum and soybeans — are all behind
their respective five-year averages in terms of completion. The state’s rice crop,
which would typically be 44 percent planted by mid-April, was only 28 percent planted
as of last week.
Sorghum was reported as similarly behind, with only 27 percent on planting completed,
compared to the five-year average of 45 percent for mid-April. Other crops, including
corn, cotton and soybeans, were only slightly behind schedule, according to the report.
Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, said that
this year’s rains are less severe — to date — than what the state experienced during
the past two years’ planting seasons, but that the rains have been more concentrated
in the northern half of the state.
“Last year, while everybody had some difficulty [with planting] early, it was somewhat
more democratic, a little more state-wide,” Hardke said. “We had these little windows
of time where everyone was planting up and down the state. Everybody was wet.”
Hardke said that this year, although rice plantings are only 1 percent behind last
year’s, state-wide, almost all of the planting that has been done has occurred south
of Interstate 40, the federal highway that bisects the state, dividing north from
Arkansas rice farming — most of which occurs in the eastern half of the state — in
areas south of I-40 accounts for only about 35 percent of total production, Hardke
said. The remaining two-thirds is farmed north of the highway — where most of this
spring’s rains have hit hardest — and only about 15 percent of that rice is now in
Most rice grown in Arkansas is grown in a continuous flood, in which knee-high levees
are formed with soil around rice paddies and the plants are kept submerged through
most of the growing process. When heavy rains occur early in the season, levees can
sometimes be compromised because the soil is still somewhat loose. But such “blowouts”
are less of a concern early in the season, prior to grower-established flooding, than
those occurring after flooding, when the plants are subjected to additional heat stress
and other factors.
Hardke said that the planting delays may not ultimately affect the state’s total
rice harvest, provided growers can plant their seed within the next week.
“Based on 10 years of planting date studies, we’ve found that if everything’s in
the ground by the end of April, we can still have a harvest that’s 100 percent of
optimum,” he said. “Once you slide into May, it immediately slides down into the 70-80
percent range pretty clearly, and continues down into June, when the best you can
expect is about 60 percent of optimum.
“It’s all about the economics,” Hardke said. “We still make good rice in May, but
once we start getting that late, luck starts to outweigh preparation. And that’s never
where we want to be.”
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Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org