Arkansas Rice: Rains Slow Harvest; Fertility Amid Rising Input Costs

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    It’s been a good run up to this point with harvest, but a rainy window has finally arrived to bust up the game and slow things down.  I feel like harvest progress is generally trending ahead of actual reported progress this year, but that’s just an opinion.  After Sunday it looks like we may get another good run for a week, but you never can tell if the extended forecast will hold.

    Harvest progress by week 2016-2021

    Table 1. Harvest progress by week, 2016-2021. Click Image to Enlarge

    NOAA 7 day precipitation forecast

    Fig. 1. NOAA 7-day precipitation forecast. Click Image to Enlarge

    Rice Fertility Amid Rising Input Costs

    Urea prices up. Phosphate prices up. Potash prices up. Diesel prices up. Rice prices up.

    So, there’s at least one highlight in that list.  A number of conversations are coming up about how folks are going to deal with their rice fertility program next year – or not deal with it by skipping phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) applications entirely.  Not so fast, my friend.

    A quick review of input costs from 2020 Enterprise budgets using conventional hybrid rice as an example:

    Rice input cost comparison 2021 vs 2022

    Click Image to Enlarge

    That’s an increase in cost of $91.33.  Ouch.  But with an increase in rice prices from $5.70/bu to $6.00/bu that brings it to a difference of only $34.33.  Suddenly that’s not quite the change from year to year it might initially appear.  The difference that’s left is similar to the increase in irrigation cost ($30.12) and you’re not going to skip out on irrigating rice.

    AgFax Weed Solutions

    Projected returns are still going to be less than last year, so input decisions will have to be very tight.  There’s also no guarantee where prices will be for 2022.  However, completely skipping out on input costs like P and K sets us up to underperform in 2022 which could have far greater hits on our bottom line.

    Please remember that there are several traditional and new tools at your disposal to help with these decisions!

    First off, DON’T FORGET TO SOIL TEST.  We have some of the most reliable fertilizer recommendations for P and K that you will find in the county and understanding how deficient or sufficient your soil is will go a long way in helping you decide where things can be cut and where they can’t.

    Secondly, our new Potash Rate Calculator (here) has been developed for precisely this scenario where constantly fluctuating fertilizer prices and rice values make it hard to identify the exact rate needed to maximize your profitability.

    The last tool is in-season preventative tissue testing, especially for K.  Our newly developed tissue-K interpretation tool can help you identify potential hidden hunger or diagnose K deficiency in rice from panicle initiation through early boot.

    In a prefect scenario, you could take soil samples, input that information along with rice and fertilizer prices to determine your most economical K rate and apply it preplant.  Once your rice hits panicle differentiation you can take a Y-leaf sample to determine if more K is needed to maximize yield and whether or not that makes sense as fertilizer costs and rice prices will almost assuredly be very different in June 2022 than they are now.

    Rather than skipping these fertilizer inputs entirely, it is much better to use the tools at your disposal to figure out how much P and K you can stand to put out based on your budget and GET SOMETHING OUT THERE.  If the soil test calls for an 0-40-60 rate (N-P-K) and you can only fit an 0-30-50 into your budget, go with it.  Listen to the Texas Tornados: “a little bit is better than nada.”

    Preliminary Cultivar Testing Data

    Preliminary results from the Commercial Rice Trials (CRT) small-plot testing are now available.  We still have a few sites left to harvest, but planting decisions are already looming for next year.  Note this data is subject to change as we finish analyzing the data.  Final results will be published around Dec. 1.

    2021 Arkansas Rice Cultivar Testing Preliminary Summary (10-1-21) (PDF)

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