Arkansas Rice: Harvest Remains Positive; False Smut Concerns

©Debra L Ferguson

Yield conversations remain more positive than negative. Always a good sign the deeper we move into harvest. The weather continues to hold and it appears the latest disturbance in the Atlantic has made a “Duke turn” up the east coast instead of heading our direction.

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Further planting dates have been harvested at Stuttgart and Pine Tree. Signs continue to be positive based on this data. Late April rice at Stuttgart continues to hold steady while early May rice at Pine Tree has only seen a modest decline.

We still have more planting dates to harvest and a large amount of our rice is planted further into May. But the fact that the numbers are holding up so far bodes well that we may maintain solid yields even on later rice. Harvest progress as of Monday was at 23% for the state. However, many more are finding dry enough rice to really get moving, so we should see a substantial increase over this week and the next.

False Smut Concerns

There have been quite a few questions about false smut this week. We often talk about false smut and kernel smut collectively but they are quite different.

Later planted rice is more prone to these smuts in general. Usually only a few grains in a panicle are infected. In very susceptible cultivars several grains may be affected. Generally speaking, false smut alone is not likely to result in noticeable losses of grain yield or milling yield. In contrast, kernel smut can have very noticeable negative impacts on both.

The reason for this difference has to do with how the two behave. The false smut fungus can transform infected kernels into greenish spore balls and the smut ball is very “showy” outside of the grain, usually leading to an overestimation of the number of kernels affected. In addition, since typically not all grains are filled, the plant may be able to compensate for the few kernels lost.

Kernel smut, however, replaces all or only part of a kernel inside the hull. So it is less likely that the plant can compensate. This results in lower yields and an increase in the number of broken or partially filled kernels that reduce milling yields.

Kernel smut, by forming inside the hull, is also very difficult to remove in the milling or cleaning processes. It may end up in the milling process resulting in a reduction in grade and is more concerning to rice used to parboil. False smut, however, will dry down and can be removed in these processes.

We still need to keep false smut under control, but it will always be worse in later planted rice, and even worse in very susceptible cultivars such as Diamond, RT Gemini 214 CL, RT XP760, and PVL01 to name a few cultivars. Additionally, even higher rates of propiconazole may only reduce false smut by 50-70% if an application is properly timed. In the future, consider rotating fields and avoid excessive nitrogen rates on susceptible cultivars


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