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Dec. 17, 2021
By Ryan McGeeneyU of A System Division of Agriculture
STUTTGART, Ark. — A win is still a win, even with an asterisk.
For several years now, Arkansas rice yields have been chasing the record, set in 2013
and then tied in 2014, of about 168 bushels per acre. After four years of hovering
at 167, it looks as though the state’s growers are closing in on a new record, at
or very near 169 bushels. The catch, however, comes after the harvest.
Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division
of Agriculture, said that there are indications milling yields will exert a distinct
downward pull on the state’s final rice production numbers.
“An old-school theory is that conditions that lead to higher rice yields also lead
to higher milling yields,” Hardke said. “And that can happen, but it’s by no means
a guarantee. Getting a high percentage of whole kernel rice and fewer broken kernels
really has a lot to do with the fall conditions. Once the crop is already made and
is beginning to dry down for harvest — that’s when you find out if conditions are
really conducive to good milling yields.”
Nevertheless, Hardke said, 2021 was a win for Arkansas rice farmers.
“The milling aspect is a concern for growers and everyone else in the industry,” he
said. “It affects everyone’s bottom line, but it was a very successful 2021 season.
That’s the give-and-take to the year.”
A wet spring, hot summer, and a fall all over the place
Arkansas rice growers struggled in the spring to get rice into the ground, as “yet
another in a string of wet years” made it difficult for producers to work up momentum,
Hardke said. “We struggled early in the season, but that then turned into high temperatures over
the summer,” he said. “Clearly, better weather makes better rice — or it makes more
During the first week of June, a record 48-hour rain event brought significant flooding
to parts of southeast Arkansas, destroying approximately 600,000 acres of crops. Although
rice acres were not the hardest hit, Hardke said the event did impact total rice acres
The high summer heat helped support 2021’s record rice yield, although it also contributed
to some of the aforementioned milling losses.
“Once we got to the latter part of August and beyond, it seemed like we had extremely
heavy dew periods throughout,” he said. “It was very wet and staying very warm. Meaning
that all those kernels in the field that were pretty mature were getting re-wetted
at night, then drying back out during the day. That can form fissures or cracks —
and the more that happens, the more cracks form, and the worse they are.
Once it reaches “maturity and the crop’s drying down, only bad things can happen to
that rice,” Hardke said. “Anything that is going to increase the amount of broken
kernels you end up with in the milling process — it’s going to lower the milling yield,
and by extension, lower what you get paid for your rice.”
Many growers also experienced high levels of peck damage in rice, which is often associated
with stinkbug damage. The industry standard is known as “55/70” — meaning that in
a given bushel of rice, 55 percent of it should be “head rice,” which is the whole
kernel rice grain, and 70 percent should be “total rice,” which is everything that
remains after the hull and bran have been removed. Growers are paid a premium for
exceeding that whole kernel standard but are discounted for falling below the standard.
“This year, both milling numbers — head rice and total rice — were lower,” Hardke
said. “We know that things like long stretches of high nighttime temperatures during
the grain filling process can lead to thinner kernels. “So now it’s a bulk density
equation — they’re just a little thinner meaning less total rice. Having a thinner
kernel can also make them more prone to breakage meaning fewer whole kernels.”
Hardke said that the immediate impacts of this will be felt by growers, who will be
paid less for their crop, and by buyers, who will have to mill more rice to fill existing
grain orders. He said consumers will likely not see any impact in terms of product
availability in the short term.
On the world stage
While many parts of the world faced new struggles in 2021, global rice production
— as well as consumption — continued to increase.
Alvaro Durand-Morat, assistant professor for the Division of Agriculture, co-authored
the “2021 Markets in Review” December report for the Fryar Price Risk Management Center
of Excellence, part of the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences.
He found that global rice production is expected to reach more than 511 million metric
tons in 2022, representing a 10 percent increase over the past decade.
The bulk of that production, Durand-Morat said, has come from increased yield, as
rice acreage has only slightly increased. Global rice demand is estimated at 509 million
metric tons, just short of projected production.
Durand-Morat said there is some market uncertainty for U.S. long grain rice exports,
due largely to political instability in Haiti. The country, which saw massive weather-related
disaster and the assassination of its president in July, is the destination for about
45 percent of U.S. long grain rice exports.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division
of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture,
visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media contact:Ryan McGeeneyCommunications ServicesUniversity of Arkansas System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com