Arkansas Rice: Major Harvest Progress, Estimating Losses

Rice harvest. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Warm sunny days, check.  Low humidity and dew points, check.  Dry breeze, check.  Falling moisture and rapid grain maturity, check.  Major harvest progress, check check!

It’s amazing what can happen when the weather turns in our favor for just a little while.  Harvest progress should be expected to exceed 40% in Monday’s report given the continued favorable harvest weather this week.

Weather next week holds some rain chances but where and how much may fall are still subject to debate.  Those with late rice and beans still needing water may welcome a rain, but most are hoping for continued dry weather to keep the combines rolling.  A grower once told me “it’s just as well we can’t control the weather because we couldn’t all agree on it anyway.”

Yield reports are still overwhelmingly positive with some odd low fields thrown in as always.  Milling yields are still variable but with some possible signs of improvement.  It’s still too early to tell for sure which way the milling trend will bear out though.  Traditionally, lower milling yields to start the year see a trend for higher milling as we progress later.  We’ll see.

Estimating Harvest Loss

Each year there are questions about estimating rice yield lost out of the combine.  Table 2 provides the straightforward answer, but it’s not that simple.  The combine doesn’t spread residue as wide as the header in most cases (depending on how you set it), so simply counting the grains in a square foot behind the machine may overestimate or underestimate loss.

To be most accurate, you need to count the number of kernels in a strip the width of the header (Table 3).  For instance, with a 30 ft header, you would need to count the kernels on the ground in a strip 30 ft wide and 4 inches long (which amounts to 10 square feet).  Divide the kernels counted in that strip by 10 to get your number per square foot.

A simpler, and faster, approach is to think of the header width in sections.  For a 30-ft header, think of it as having three 10-ft sections.  Take a single square foot count in the center of each of these 10-ft sections, total the numbers and divide by three.  This will give you the number per square foot and capture areas to the side and directly behind the combine, while taking a third of the time as the traditional method.

Remember that when using this quicker method, you must be sampling in the residue swath – some set their combines to spread residue narrower or wider for various reasons.

Remember to count kernels on the ground in an area not yet harvested so that you account for shattered grain that isn’t being lost from the harvesting process.  Subtract any grain already on the ground from your harvest loss estimates.

Converting rice field loss estimates to bu per acre

Table 2.  Converting rice field loss counts into bushels per acre.

Dimensions for field loss estimate

Table 3.  Dimensions for field loss estimate.




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