Texas Rice: Crop Is Late and Getting Later

Rice maturing near Beaumont. Photo: Kathleen Phillips, Texas AgriLife Extension

When you talk with Texas rice farmers they almost all say the same thing about the 2019 crop – it got started late and never caught up.

Linda & L.G Raun, who grow long grain rice in El Campo, report that the problems began back in 2018 when it started raining in August.  Wet conditions continued throughout that fall and winter with farmers unable to work their fields, pushing seed bed preparation back until March, which made planting and hence, harvest, late.

“I did not begin harvest until August 5 this year,” said L.G.  “That’s the first time in 45 years of farming that I did not harvest any rice in July.

Fortunately, weather in the western rice belt is finally cooperating and about two-thirds of the crop there is harvested.

According to L.G., planted acres are down in his area by about 30 percent, and across Texas over 40,000 acres were filed as prevented planted.  Seed rice acres have increased and organic acres are about the same, resulting in a decrease in conventional acres and low production.  Raun says in a normal year, two-thirds of Texas acres are ratooned but because of the late first crop planting and high seed rice acres that figure has dropped to half of total acres planted in 2019.

Timothy Gertson, who farms in Wharton County, filed a similar crop report saying the fields in his area were not touched until about 10 days before planting started.  “Early rice that got dry planted in freshly worked ground suffered terribly from multiple cold fronts delaying emergence for nearly three weeks.”

Gertson reiterated that weather during the growing season was good for the most part, although rain during the pollination period has had a negative impact on yields, with hybrid yields falling 5-10 percent, and early harvested inbred varieties off as much as 25-30 percent.

“The good news is the ratoon crop is maturing nicely, and milling quality has looked good across the board so far,” said Gertson.

2019 has been a challenging year for rice, and the full impact and outlook won’t fully be understood for several more weeks, but, as L.G. Raun said: “Wait until next year!”

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