Mid-South Rice: Lack of Rain Puts Focus on Irrigation

    Rice irrigated with poly pipe. ©Debra L Ferguson

    Rice across the Mid-South is coming along strong this year, but, unfortunately, so is the grass.  Meanwhile, the rain has become sparse in recent months and many producers are focused on irrigation.

    A pocket of the Missouri Bootheel hasn’t received a decent rain in almost two months.  Near Hornersville, Zach Worrell and his family are 3 to 4 weeks behind where they would like to be.

    “The wet spring really put us back this year.  Most of our rice hasn’t headed out yet and it looks like the earliest we could stop irrigating will be early September which would push our harvest back to late September or early October.  Despite the delays, the rice crop itself is looking decent this year except for some intense grass problems.”

    Likewise, the last major rain on Eric Vaught’s farm in northeast Arkansas occurred in early June.  While scattered storms have popped up across the state in recent weeks, the most the Vaught’s received from a shower was 2/10 of an inch.

    “Our main focus the past month has been on irrigation.  Despite the lack of rain, our rice is in pretty good shape.  Temperatures this week have been in upper 80s during the day and in the 60s at night.  During this time of year, it wouldn’t be unusual for those temperatures to be in the 100s and 80s, so this cooler weather has certainly been favorable for our crops.

    “On our farm, we’re around two weeks from draining, so I don’t think many in our area will be ready to harvest before the first week of September.”

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    Steve Orlicek, who farms in Stuttgart, Arkansas, said, “our main problem this year has been grass.  We sprayed earlier this year but still have quite a bit of grass in our fields.  Thankfully, we haven’t had any diseases in our crop.  We increased our row rice acreage this year and the weather this spring helped it get off to a good start.

    “We were fortunate to not have any issues with sheath blight or blast this year, and we should be able to start draining our earliest planted rice in three weeks.”

    Mississippi received a few more showers than Arkansas in June and early July, and Kirk Satterfield is watering everything on his farm for the first time this week.

    “Approximately 60 percent of our rice crop has already headed, and we should start draining our early planted rice next week.  This recent string of mild temperatures has been good for our pollinating rice.  We’re also seeing quite a bit of rice planted in fields where it hasn’t been planted in the past.  If the weather remains good, Mississippi should have our largest crop since 2016.”




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