Arkansas Rice: Rains Slow Harvest, Yields Still Down

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Crop Overview

Various rainfall amounts have hit most of the state over the past couple of days, slowing down harvest progress.  Of greater concern is likely the temperature cooldown expected over this weekend that will slow rice needing finish maturing.  We’re expected to warm back up some throughout next week with clear conditions until next weekend though, so things should pick back up.

The short story is that yields continue to be off 10-15% from last year.  Where and when different cultivars were planted – or more specifically when they hit key reproductive stages – seems to have a lot to do with specific field performance.  Conditions at certain key times during June and July seem to have caused serious fluctuations in panicle development around midseason and early boot.

If you look at the daily weather descriptions for locations in both north and south Arkansas you’ll see something interesting for June.  During June when all of the rice currently harvested was reaching midseason, you’ll see that we had a grand total of around 6 days described as “clear” and that was about 1 day a week.  Most of the rest of the days were rain, thunderstorms, or scattered clouds.  Combine these conditions with strange temperature fluctuations and you have a recipe for impact on plant development.

2015-28 Aerial applicator

Planting Date Study Results So Far

So, based on field observations and early plot harvest results, signs point to weather conditions as the culprit for our issues this year.  How about a little data to back up that theory?  You got it.

Looking at planting date study data collected so far at Stuttgart this year, there’s an interesting trend (Fig. 1).  Similar planting dates are paired together for comparison between 2014 and 2015.

In 2014 yields were high early and increased in mid-April before beginning to fall in early May.  Not out of the ordinary.  But in 2015, yields started off substantially lower compared to 2014 followed by a significant drop in mid-April before rebounding to nearly equal the earliest planting date by early May.

2015-28 Fig 1 2014-2015 Grain Yield by Planting Date

Fig. 1. Average grain yield by planting date at RREC near Stuttgart, 2014-2015.

The harvest of more planting dates will help to paint an even better picture.  However, the results of the May 5 planting date does give some hope that later plantings will improve compared to the mid-April plantings.  Let’s continue to hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

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