Arkansas Rice: Outlook Increasingly Positive; Time to Drain Some Fields?

    Rice on the verge of heading. Photo: University of Arkansas

    The majority of the crop has now moved into heading with the earliest fields already being drained.  The cool spell around Memorial Day seems to have set overall maturity back by several days, but harvest is finally coming into view.

    Rice stink bugs continue to reach treatment levels in scattered fields, but generally many fields have low levels below the need to treat.  Likewise, fall armyworm is still around but for now most of the battle seems past us.  Keep scouting for both!

    Surprisingly, disease reports have been very mild.  Even sheath blight, while active in the lower canopy, has not often moved up the plant to threatening levels.

    We’re always hoping to outrun sheath blight and it seems like we’re doing more of that this year, but we still need to keep a close eye on later fields in case the disease does start to pick up and progress more as conditions change.

    Certainly, hopes at this stage are for a very good rice crop wit the majority of fields appearing to have very good potential.  The upcoming week of expected high temperatures, both daytime highs and overnight lows, is concerning.  Should we experience more than a few consecutive nights with lows around 75 or above, quality and even yield could be impacted depending on where fields are in maturity.

    NOAA 7 day precipitation forecast

    Fig. 1. NOAA 7-day Precipitation Forecast. Click Image to Enlarge

    NOAA 6-10 d Temp Outlook

    Fig. 2. NOAA 6-10 day Temperature Outlook. Click Image to Enlarge

    Time to Drain Some Rice?

    Draining season is finally upon us with the first fields releasing water over the past week.  As a general rule, we recommend draining fields 25 or 30 days after 50% heading for long-grain and medium-grain cultivars, respectively.

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    However, environmental conditions will affect grain maturity so adjustments to those approximate timings may be needed.  The DD50 Rice Management Program has those dates built into the program, but this year due to some unseasonable cool snaps, you may see the need to wait several more days to drain past the date on the DD50 report.

    Beyond just using days after 50% heading to guide draining efforts, it’s important to look at the relative maturity of the crop from a visual standpoint.  Fig. 3 shows a general guide for determining relative grain maturity for drain decisions:

    • Left, nearly all kernels are straw colored (field is safe to drain regardless of soil type).
    • Center, nearly 2/3 of kernels are straw colored and it is safe to drain on a silt loam soil.
    • Right, nearly 1/3 of kernels are straw colored and may be safe to drain on a clay soil.

    When draining rice, assume it’s never going to rain after draining.  If the rice couldn’t safely make it to full maturity under those conditions, then hold the flood on the field.  Stay on the side of caution to protect yield and quality.  Use a combination of the days after 50% heading guideline (25-30 days) and the relative grain maturity in the field to make your drain decisions.

    Rice Drain Timing

    Fig. 3.  Rice panicles at different maturity levels described by kernel percent straw color:  (L) 100%, (C) 67%, and (R) 33%.

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