UACES Facebook Labor Day storms ‘pancake’ rice on eve of harvest
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Labor Day storms ‘pancake’ rice on eve of harvest

“It was pretty rough in some places, with 1-3 inches of rain and 50-60-mile-per-hour winds." — Jarrod Hardke

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Sept. 6, 2023

Fast facts

  • Storm gusts, rain ‘pancaked’ rice in some places
  • Farmers will need a few days to assess

(481 words)

(Newsrooms: With art)

STUTTGART, Ark. — High winds and heavy rain from Labor Day storms that raked across the Arkansas Delta may dampen some of the enthusiasm for the 2023 rice harvest, said Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“It was pretty rough in some places, with 1-3 inches of rain and 50-60 mile per hour winds,” he said on Tuesday. “Some rice is pancaked in the worst areas.”

2023-9-5-MissCo-Rice-IMG_5557 copy
Rice lies in a field in Mississippi County after being flattened by storms on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2023. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Ethan Brown)

Last week, the outlook for Arkansas’ rice harvest was upbeat, with Hardke expecting that the state might approach 2021’s record yield. However, after Monday, that optimism was dampened.

The storms were “enough to impact the harvest outlook to at least a small degree,” he said. “We will need to get a better picture in the next few days.”

Heavy heads at harvest
With its panicles — or grain heads — heavy with rice, the upright stems of the rice plant are particularly vulnerable to damage from winds and water the nearer they are to harvest. When crops are blown over, a condition called “lodging,” they are very difficult to harvest since the combine can’t reach plants on the ground.

Hardke said northeastern Arkansas was hardest hit.

“In field edges where stands are thicker and fertilizer overlaps occur the rice is leaning, though not completely lodged,” he said. “This isn’t uncommon in the counties surrounding Jonesboro and southward toward the Grand Prairie.” 

Jenna Martin, Cross County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture, said some farms had 1-3 acres of rice flattened. She also said, “some corn went flat.”

Hardke said that east of Crowley’s Ridge, particularly in Mississippi County, fields that have 40-50 percent lodging are common, and some fields are closer to 100 percent lodged.

“There is more mature rice present in Mississippi County at this time and less able to stand the rain and strong winds,” he said. “West of the ridge around Jonesboro, much of the rice is greener and more flexible, allowing it to better withstand the conditions from the storms, but there were still some severely affected fields.”

The National Weather Service had more thunderstorms in the forecast for Wednesday and Friday. 

“For fields with the beginning stages of lodging, they will continue to fall lower with each passing wind or rain event, so time is critical to get those fields harvested before the rice flattens to the ground,” Hardke said.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service said in Tuesday’s Crop Progress report that Arkansas’ rice was 68 percent mature and 24 percent harvested, well ahead of the 14 percent, five-year average.

The National Weather Service at Little Rock issued severe thunderstorm warnings Monday evening for parts of Lonoke, Pulaski and Jefferson counties. The storms also included a phenomenon that the National Weather Service called a “gustnado.”

In 2022, Arkansas rice growers harvested 1.084 million acres with a yield of 164.7 bushels per acre. In 2021, Arkansas farmers harvested 1.193 million, with a state average yield of 169.6 bushels per acre.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit 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. The Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.

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: Mary Hightower