Arkansas Rice: Managing “Out of Control” Spring Critical to ’19 Success – Horizon Ag

Young furrow planted rice field, pre-flood. Photo: By Dan Roach, Ext. Associate, Mississippi State University

The adage is “poison is in the dose.”

For rice planting in 2019, it is not only the dose but also the frequency that has caused rice planting in the upper Mississippi Delta to creep along at a snail’s pace. Weather data analyzed from Jonesboro, Arkansas, from March 17 to May 4 indicated that rain was received each of the seven weeks across that span. The total amount of rain was 11.25 inches, and 7.8 inches came during the prime planting month of April. This, coupled with saturated soils due to continued rain since the 2018 harvest, has placed a tremendous uncertainty on what final acres will be in 2019.

The closest comparison in recent times for our slow planting progress this year is 2013. As planting delays happened in 2013, there was a much better crop alternative as the November 2013 soybean contract was trading in the $12 – $13 per bushel range compared to sub $8.50 today. Rice acres will likely be substantially less than what was expected a month ago, and each day we are not able to plant puts further down pressure on acres. However, it is likely that at least a few hundred thousand acres will be planted in the mid-May to early June window if Mother Nature allows.

The question becomes, how do we manage the late-planted crop?

Using the University of Arkansas DD50 program, simulations were run for CL153 with emergence dates ranging from April 17 to June 6. The first observation was that there are 18 fewer days from emergence to harvest (20% moisture) for rice that emerged June 6 compared to April 17 (Figure 1). The number of days the rice was under flood was only five days less. The largest difference was that it only took two weeks from emergence to flood up for the June 6 emerging rice compared to four weeks for rice emerging April 17 (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Days from emergence to harvest over a range of emergence dates using simulated University of Arkansas DD50 data for CL153 planted near Jonesboro, AR. Click Image to Enlarge

Figure 2. Days from emergence to flood establishment over a range of emergence dates using simulated University of Arkansas DD50 data for CL153 planted near Jonesboro, AR. Click Image to Enlarge

Taking this into consideration, the first concern is that we must stay on top of late-emerging rice as it will reach fertilization/flooding stage in a very short time. However, if we plan accordingly, herbicide costs could be minimized due to a much shorter window of control.

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Grass will also be growing extremely fast with the soil moisture and temperatures that are normal for late May/early June. That means it will be extremely important to overlap residual grass materials to minimize weed pressure that could further reduce yields — something we must avoid with late-planted rice.

Because growing conditions should be optimum, “starter N” applications could likely be avoided. If sulfur and/or phosphorus is needed, it could be blended with the preflood N application. The N in ammonium sulfate and/or diammonium phosphate could then be counted 100% toward the total N budget.

I’ve had to remind myself a number of times this spring to do my best to control what I can control.  These suggestions are provided with the hope of you controlling what you can in an otherwise out-of-control spring. If you have any questions or if we can provide support as you manage through these early-season challenges, please contact your Horizon Ag Field Representative.


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