Arkansas Rice: ‘If Not for Bad Luck, We’d Have No Luck at All.’ 150,000-Plus Acres Lost

Photo by Mike Andrews, University of Arkansas Extension Agent, Randolph County

Crop Progress

If it wasn’t for bad luck I guess we’d have no luck at all.  Initial estimates of rice lost due to flooding in northern Arkansas now exceed 150,000 acres.  Additional “acres affected” pushes the economic hit to extreme levels (Figure 1). 

As we approach 7+ days of submerged rice the conversation turns increasingly toward the ability of rice to survive.  Every day more acres are going under as water moves south; some acres are coming out of the flooding but not many.  More water is being released out of Missouri that will likely worsen the situation.

With Arkansas only projected to plant 1.2 million acres of rice (USDA-NASS), we’re now in an interesting position.  I felt we would be in the 1.1 million acre range this year.  Either way take 150,000 acres off lost to flood, and subtract another 120,000 that haven’t been planted yet.

Simple math says that puts us in the range of the lowest acres since 1987 or we might fall below 1 million acres for the first time since 1983 (Table 1).

Maybe the planting acreage estimate was too low from mine and USDA estimates and we’ll have more acres than we think.  Maybe more acres lost or not yet planted will be planted/replanted than we think.  It’s too early to know, but as of today it looks like a very low number of acres – possibly a 30-year low.

Rice futures prices have been doing some interesting things this week.  That’s been a little surprising as we still know so little about the extent of the damage and lost acreage.  We’ll know in a few weeks and how the market responds is anyone’s guess.

Fig. 1. Initial estimated impact of rains and flooding in Arkansas. Click Image to Enlarge

Table 1. History of Arkansas rice acreage harvested and state average yield. Click Image to Enlarge

* I – crops can be planted immediately; D – number of days; M – number of months; FY – crops can be planted the following year; and FS – the following season.

Survival of Submerged Rice

There have been tons of questions about whether any of the previous numbers thrown out about rice survival mean anything.  In a word, yes.  I’ve seen too many acres of rice up and down the state submerged at every stage imaginable for a wide range of time lengths.  Aside from the extremes there are some pretty consistent expected outcomes.

The key is that there are wide ranges of response based on environmental factors.  It goes back to the golden rule of farming: it all depends.  So have a look at Figure 3.

You can see that 10 days is generally about the 50/50 point.  I’ve seen rice die after being under for 4 days and I’ve seen rice live after being under for over 21 days.  Plan based on the average, not the extreme.  If you’ve got rice under for 10 days, act like it’s not going to be there when the flood comes off.

Please keep in mind that this figure is not based on data – it is based on a large number of observations over time.  Putting it into a figure of this type is meant only to provide a visual aid about what to expect.  All the previously mentioned variables still come into play.

Fig. 2. Rice survival based on submergence. Click Image to Enlarge

While not making light of the current situation, many could use a laugh right now:

If We Get to Replant, What Will Be Available to Replant?

A reminder on comments made earlier in the week – the final planting date for rice in Arkansas is May 25, 2017.  “The late planting period begins the day after the final planting date for the insured crop and ends 15 days after the final planting date.”  This reads to me that June 9 is the final day of the late planting period and June 10 is the first day past – consult with your crop insurance agent.

But remember the final planting date for soybeans is June 15, 2017.  That should make things interesting in the coming weeks of deciding what to do as many acres may not be accessible until June.

Despite the lower rice acreage expected this year, seed supplies are extremely tight and there are few available options for additional acres of replanting.  Of what is available, there is little of it.  There will be some hard decisions made.

Assuming you can switch over to soybeans – finding seed there may also be extremely difficult.  The increase in soybean acres expected to start the year was going to strain seed supplies and finding seed for another 200,000 acres may be asking too much.

I wish there were more answers to provide, but we’re still in ‘wait and see’ mode with our flooding problems.  The best advice is to start making tentative plans and arrangements now to increase our odds of making it through 2017 as best we can.  What seemed like such a good start to the year looks like anything but.

Herbicide Plant-Back Intervals

One thing to begin considering as we make plans for what to do next is what our options are – this is where herbicide plant-back restrictions are of serious concern.  Regardless of what has happened in fields, these intervals are there for a reason and we must stick with them (it’s the law).  Also don’t forget your season maximum application rates still apply.

Not included below but should be noted are Newpath and Beyond – both of these have lengthy plant-backs to any crop other than Clearfield rice or soybean.  Consult MP519 for more information.

Table 2. Plant-back intervals for selected rice herbicides. Click Image to Enlarge

Fig. 3. Flooding in Arkansas and Missouri. April 25 (left) vs. May 2 (right). Blue/black is water. Images from NASA.

Fig. 4. Flooding on Highway HH in Missouri south of Clearwater Lake. Additional releases from the lake of 7,000 cubic ft per second are expected which will flow down the Black River into affected areas.

Flooding in Northeast Arkansas

The following images are courtesy of Mike Andrews, Extension agriculture agent in Randolph County.

Preflood Nitrogen Recommendations

Despite the flooding in northeast Arkansas, early fields throughout the state are approaching the need to fertilize and establish the permanent flood.  Our earliest planting date studies, planted late March and early April, need to go to flood next week based on the DD50 program.  The 2017 Rice Farming for Profit publication on pages 12-14 contains recommendations for nitrogen rates, urease inhibitors, and determining midseason nitrogen needs using the Greenseeker handheld.


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