The Dust is Flying “Listen! Do you smell that?” That’s the smell of freshly turned soil. Finally a decent run throughout much of the state for getting fields turned around and ready to plant. Most still don’t have any seed in the ground, but overall statewide progress is probably over 5% with certain areas at 10% or greater.
Some growers have half their rice planted already. It can’t be stressed enough – don’t plant so much rice in a week that will take a month to harvest. That may not be much of an issue soon, however, as the long-term forecast points toward a rainy window returning once again. Hopefully this weekend’s rainfall totals are minimal so we can keep moving, or maybe that far off rain will disappear. Read quickly and get back to it!
Cutting Fertility to Save on Input Costs
If you eat less, you’ll eventually lose weight. The same is true for rice plants and fertility (their food). We all want to make more crop while spending less money, but we need to spend less wisely.
First, I’m still surprised at the number of growers who don’t conduct standard soil testing on their fields. It’s difficult (impossible?) to know if you’re doing the right thing if you don’t know where you stand. Soil test, even if it means the fertilizer will have to go out by air or ground after the rice is planted.
Contrary to the belief of many, there is not much soil level “build” in our current fertilizer recommendations. Soils falling in the Very Low or Low soil test categories should be fertilized as recommended. Period. For soils falling around the Medium category, some slight reductions from the recommendations may be possible without any negative impact. This means for phosphorus (P) a reduction of no more than 10% or for potassium (K) a reduction of no more than 20%. Keep in mind these reductions may put you in the “pay for it now versus pay for it later” situation.
Environmental conditions will always be the unknown variable affecting how much of these nutrients are lost or made unavailable, so there is still risk with these reductions. Zinc (Zn) fertility is a little different animal. Generally speaking there is no substitute for 10 lbs of Zn applied as zinc sulfate. It’s not cheap, but it’s not really any more expensive than other Zn products, which provide much less Zn and don’t build the soil at all. In addition, distribution is key because Zn doesn’t move from where it lands.
Running 5 lbs of Zn may be adequate in many situations but is difficult to blend and get the desired field distribution. So, stick to the soil test recommendations when fertility levels are in the Very Low to Low categories and only consider deviating slightly at higher category levels. Be mindful that areas in the field may have lower levels and deficiencies can still show up as a result. At the end of the day, fields with higher fertility levels will readily benefit from a maintenance rate of 0-30-60 or 0- 45-60 (N-P-K). A rice plant is happiest with a full belly, feed it!
Rice Seeding Rate Studies
The results of seeding rate studies from the past few years, including seeding rate by planting date, can be found here. Keep in mind that all seed in these trials received insecticide and fungicide seed treatments. The general take-home message is that 30 seed/ft2 is needed for varieties to maximize yield and may need to be adjusted upward based on conditions at planting.
2019 Rice Acres
2019 Rice Acres USDA issued its Prospective Plantings report on Friday (March 29). The survey for the report was taken during the first two weeks of March. New crop rice futures have moved higher since then. New crop soybean futures have traded lower since early March on ideas some corn acres may be switching to soybeans. Ahead of today’s report, the average of private estimates for total U.S. rice acreage was 2,801 million, down from 2.946 million in 2018. The range of guesses was from 2.58 to 3.0 million acres.
Results of the NASS survey were very close to the average pre-report guess at 2.87 million – a decline of 76,000 acres from last year. Louisiana and Arkansas are both expected to decrease rice plantings by 40,000 acres.
By class, Arkansas is expected to reduce long-grain acreage by 50,000 acres. Again, these numbers are based on NASS surveys taken in the first two weeks of March. Since then both the weather and prices have improved with new crop September futures trading up to $11.20/cwt just a week ago.
In total, U.S. long-grain acres are projected to drop 47,000 acres in 2019. Recall in February that USDA had long-grain acres falling 300,000 to 1.9 million in its Ag Outlook Forum Grain Outlook. The complexion of the rice market has turned a bit more positive, while soybean futures have drifted lower and new crop soybean basis has remained weak. The price competitiveness of soybeans is very much a factor in rice planting decisions this year.
Arkansas has increased medium-grain acres the last two years. The trend is expected to continue for a third year in 2019. Medium-grain acres are projected to be up 10,000 to a total of 200,000 acres. This would be the first time since 2015 that medium-grain acres have hit 200,000 acres. Total U.S. medium-grain acres are expected to drop 29,000 acres with notable reductions in Louisiana and California.
The table below includes the states reporting rice planting in last Monday’s Crop Progress report. Rice, corn, and soybean planting is kicking off in the Midsouth. Rice planting progress is in-line with the historic average pace. The jump from 5 to 25% planted in Louisiana last week is a good illustration of how fast the crop can get planted given a dry stretch of weather.