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Good year for Texas

In general, rice yields and quality were excellent in the main crop in Texas in 2009. The hybrids and CL151 performed well. Presidio also performed well when factoring in the ratoon crop – especially in Matagorda County where farmers plant very early (February) and manage both crops for maximum yields. Weather during the summer, when rice was flowering, was hot and dry, which is frequently associated with panicle blight and blanking. However, unexpectedly low incidences of this disease/disorder were observed in 2009. Nevertheless, some farmers’ fields, especially in Jackson County, were plagued by this problem.

Some fields west of Houston experienced straighthead in the main crop. High yields in 2009 were attributed, in part, to the drought, which brought clear skies – somewhat similar to California conditions. Low disease pressure was evident throughout the season, which is expected given the atypical levels of low humidity; however, narrow brown leaf spot continued to present problems. In addition, false smut was observed in some ratoon fields. In some CL151 fields east of Houston, bronzing of foliage was observed prior to harvest, but no apparent yield losses were incurred.

A major problem was high demand for irrigation water during the drought. Farmers had trouble flushing and watering up their crop and maintaining adequate levels of water after flooding. The high cost of pumping this water resulted in a decrease in ratoon acreage in 2009. Furthermore, ratoon yields were affected by abundant rainfall before ratoon harvest, which delayed cutting and rutted fields. Another problem for ratoon rice production was many farmers baled main crop straw, which delayed watering up the ratoon crop.

Farmers in Chambers and Jefferson Counties with land south of Highway 73 were unable to plant rice due to high salt concentrations in soil and water caused by a tidal surge from Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Recent heavy rains in September and October may allow these farmers to resume planting rice in 2010.

Many Texas rice farmers apply clomazone to control grass weeds in a conservation tillage system. Thus, sprangletop is becoming problematic. Five or six species/biotypes of sprangletop are now occurring in some Texas rice fields.

Rice water weevil pressure was high in 2009, but registered insecticides, including pyrethroids and Dermacor X-100 (seed treatment granted a Section 18 in 2009) proved effective. Chinch bug and fall armyworm were problems on seedling rice, but farmers were able to control them with labeled insecticides. Stalk borers were sporadic as was rice stink bug. Again, labeled insecticides were effective, including Tenchu 20SG (granted a Section 18 in 2009) for rice stink bug. Panicle rice mite was not observed or reported in commercial Texas rice fields in 2009.

All in all, 2009 was a good year, production-wise, for Texas rice farmers. They faced many challenges in 2009 and will undoubtedly face many more in 2010. However, rapid adoption of technological advances best suited to individual situations will allow our Texas farmers to prosper and continue to produce a quality food staple for a hungry world.

I would like to thank Randy Waligura, Rick Schmidt, Garry McCauley, Tommy Myzell, Rodney Dishman and Cliff Mock for help in preparing this article.


Almost record yield

Sometimes it is interesting to look back at the last season just to see what you anticipated or predicted in contrast to what actually happened. I could not start the process until Nov. 12 because that is when we finally harvested our last verification field. Yes, it was second crop, but our last first crop field was harvested Nov. 2. I looked over our records for previous years to find the latest harvest prior to this year was Sept. 22.

Even though our recommended planting date window in south Louisiana began March 15 this year, the best planting period was between March 8 and 15. It was not as much a problem of low temperatures, but of persistent rain that kept many farmers who intended to drill seed from getting into the fields. It was not a good spring for dry seeding. A late crop always troubles me because it is akin to giving your opponent a head start in a race. You have to have an outstanding year after that to recover.

The last week of May began a string of 35 consecutive days without rain. That meant lots of sunshine, a good thing, and temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s, a bad thing. Early planted rice performed well because most of it flowered before the onset of high (especially nighttime) temperatures. Rice planted from the third week of March on into April was caught flowering in the midst of the worst of it.

For a while, we thought we were on track to break the record yield of 6,515 pounds per acre harvested in 2007 as determined by our Extension service estimates. The USDA figures are different, which is why they estimated this year’s crop at 6,450 pounds per acre, which they state is a record. We agree with the yield this year, but not that it is a record. At this writing, we are gathering data for the annual publication Louisiana Summary Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Losing over 30,000 acres in Vermilion Parish as a result of salt water inundation consequent to Hurricanes Ike and Gustav prevented the rebound in acreage I had expected. Acreage did recover some, just not to the extent expected. Medium grain acreage broke the 10 percent barrier for the first time in many years spurred by the premiums offered last spring.

Clearfield acres increased to a little over 62 percent of the total, a number we would rather not see because that implies Clearfield rice will be planted following Clearfield rice, which is a highly undesirable practice. According to our figures hybrid rice acreage remains between 15 and 20 percent of the total.

Last season we encountered numerous fields where the Clearfield technology has been lost. In some cases, poor stewardship was the cause. However, as we feared and predicted, a lot of hybrid seed was blown off the heads of rice still in the field when the hurricanes hit. Because the hybrids have some of the dormancy characteristics of red rice, it allowed seed to survive and germinate this spring. The resulting populations are a mixture of many forms of rice, some hairy and some smooth, some have awns and some do not, some are tall and some are short and many of them are resistant to Newpath. Without any new chemistry on the horizon, the only solution is to return to the days of water seeding and pinpoint flooding to grow rice in fields infested with this stuff.

In spite of the late harvest season we experienced in the verification program, we produced the best yields since the program’s inception in 1997. First crop yield was 81.31 cwt/A (50.2 bbls/A or 180.7bu/A) at 12 percent moisture. When we added in second crop, yield increased to 90.78 cwt/A (56.0 bbls/A or 201.7 bu/A). It was a very satisfying year for participants in the program.


Rain, rain and rain

This year has been one for the record books. No, not the record books we normally like to see in terms of yield, but one for rainfall. When looking back during planting season, we had extensive rainfall the first two weeks of May. At Stoneville, 13.51 inches of rain was received, making it the second wettest May on record. July was wet as well with 8.74 inches of rain. This was the fifth wettest July on record. And, of course, who could forget the wettest October on record. June was an oddity for 2009 in that it was one of the driest Junes on record.

The rainfall during the growing season made it hard to get the crop in and out of the field. With all of the replanting and spot planting at end of May, I felt that we had rebounded from these earlier hardships to have a decent rice crop. However, the rainfall began in September and continued through October. This rainfall not only caused yield losses, but quality losses as well. USDA currently projects Mississippi will average 6,650 lb/A (147.8 bu/A), which is the lowest yield since 2005. Quality losses in 2009 could be in excess of 10 percent. The wet harvesting conditions have caused stain to become more of an issue than in the past. As more of the 2009 rice crop comes to market, the quality losses will become more evident.

Varieties planted in 2009 on most of the Mississippi rice acres were CL131, CL151 and Cocodrie. CL131 and CL151 were planted on over 50 percent of the acres. Cocodrie was planted on approximately 35 percent of the acres. Before all of the rains in September and October, it appeared there would be a major shift to plant CL151 on a substantial portion of the acres in 2010. However, CL151 did not fair favorably with the wet weather, and, as a result, I believe in 2010 there will still be a good mix of varieties planted across the state.

Mississippi planted approximately 240,000 acres of rice in 2009. In talking with producers, they have suggested that rice planting intentions for 2010 will be higher than in 2009. Even though April is only four months away, planting intentions will be subject to change before planting season begins.


Ditto on the rain

What a year! From beginning to end, this has been one of the most challenging years I can remember in my 20 years in this business. It started wet, stayed wet in the middle and finished wet. Some areas of Arkansas have had over 70 inches of rainfall since April and this all during the “dry season” of summer. El Nino is apparently responsible and caused quite a stir.

The wetter and cooler-than-normal weather patterns resulted in a lot of headaches, some isolated disasters and a less than ideal crop. According to USDA, we harvested approximately 1.475 million acres in 2009, an increase of about 75,000 acres from the 2008 crop. The rice acreage in Arkansas was distributed among several varieties including Wells (17 percent), RiceTec CL XL 729 (15 percent), Jupiter (13 percent) and CL151 (12 percent).

Hybrid rice made up about 28 percent of the total acreage, while Clearfield rice made up about 48 percent of the total acreage. Projected yield for the 2009 rice crop is 150 bu/acre. This yield is slightly better than last year’s crop (148 bu/acre) but certainly less than the record of 161 bu/acre set in 2007.

Rainfall during planting time resulted in more late-seeded rice than normal. The cooler-than-normal temperatures that accompanied the rain resulted in delayed growth and development for much of the season. This was especially apparent during grain filling and dry-down.

Much of the crop was harvested at 20 percent grain moisture or higher because of less than ideal drying conditions. This is the first time I have ever seen this much rice harvested in November.

The rainfall and cloudy skies resulted in more rice blast disease across the state than we have observed in quite some time. Francis, CL151, Jupiter and Wells were the most common varieties with blast problems. Several growers unfortunately learned the hard way how devastating rice blast can be when the weather is favorable. In addition to rice blast, several farmers had to deal with excessive flooding early and late in the year. I observed a field that was submerged for a whole month and still survived to make a crop. If flooding during seedling stages was not enough, several fields were also flooded after heading.

In spite of the weather, the folks who were able to get planted early reaped the benefit. Yields for the early rice were pretty good. This early crop is what allowed the overall yields to be slightly better than last year. On the one hand, weather-related problems including floods, hail, blast, poor grain drying conditions and delayed maturity seemed to be commonplace during 2009. The yields were generally good but not great; the milling yields were very good and the prices were pretty good, also.

In a year when cotton, corn and soybean farmers shared in the problems, rice probably fared the best. The season leaves a lot of room to improve next year but also much for which to be thankful. Now it’s time to look to 2010.


Outstanding milling

The 2009 California rice-growing season started off with a mostly warm dry spring and very good planting conditions followed by a rather mild summer. In general, this has been a very good year for rice in California. An estimated 549,000 acres of rice were planted in 2009, making it the second or third largest acreage since the early 1980s. Forecasted statewide yield is currently at 8,500 pounds/acre, slightly below the record of 8,600 pounds/acre. Higher prices for Calrose medium grain have led to somewhat of a reduction in specialty rice and organic production. California continues to suffer through a drought, but precipitation in late January through early March helped avoid drastic water delivery predictions in the northern part of the state that could have severely impacted rice acreage. Growers of other commodities south of Sacramento in the San Joaquin Valley were not so fortunate and had to manage reduced water deliveries by fallowing substantial amounts of farmland. Water availability and quality will continue to be substantial issues in California rice production for the foreseeable future.

The mostly warm dry spring allowed for patience and proper ground preparation this year. Early May saw a few days of rain and cool temperatures, which resulted in weeds getting a head start in some fields where the soil was not able to dry completely prior to final ground preparation.

Herbicide resistance continues to be an evolving issue, especially where growers have relied on the same base grass herbicide for multiple years without rotating to a different mode of action. In July, temperatures were mainly mild with the exception of a streak of six triple-digit days in the middle of the month. During years with such conditions, we typically observe very good yields. It wasn’t until late August that we experienced overnight temperatures cold enough to result in significant cold-induced sterility. But, the vast majority of rice was well past the sensitive stage by this time.

Occasional fog and longer dew periods occurred throughout the summer, leading to an outbreak of brown leaf spot lesions at midseason. This disease occurs annually in California but is usually not widespread unless there are summer rain showers. The amount of damage caused by this disease in 2009 appears to be more cosmetic than economically harmful. In addition, there was a significant amount of rice blast disease in 2009. Varieties M-104 and M-205 appear to be most susceptible to the race of the rice blast pathogen present in California. These varieties should be avoided in areas that see rice blast pressure year after year and the resistant variety, M-208, should be considered for these fields.

Conditions during grain ripening were cool, and there weren’t many days with strong north winds, so milling quality was outstanding during the peak harvest period. Overall, milling quality is expected to be very good. Over two inches of rain and strong winds in the middle of October made harvest more difficult in fields that were still to be harvested. Milling quality will likely be reduced in many of these fields as harvest progress was slowed.


It’s finally over!

Hopefully, by the time you read these comments, the Missouri rice producers can say this phrase with respect to the 2009 rice production season. And what a season it was! Planting started out about two weeks late due to cool, wet field conditions and finished up close to most people’s deadline (June!). There were some disease problems that had to be dealt with and, as of Nov. 18, it isn’t all in the bin for a few producers.

The delayed planting seemed to complicate management programs for the different crops. Along the way, we didn’t have a lot of good, hot growing weather, but it wasn’t bad weather until we got closer to harvest. Then, the rain cycles started and didn’t stop until almost early November for any extended period of time. As a result of the later planting and less than ideal temperatures in July and August, producers had to wait for the grain to fill and mature. The last few seed on the panicles had a hard time maturing.

Farmers harvested when they could between rain showers. Word is that yields were ranging from 120 Bu/A to over 200 Bu/A in some cases with the best yields from the early planted, early harvested rice. Some producers were pleasantly surprised that their rice yielded well, but time will tell concerning the milling quality. Early indications are that the early harvested rice had good milling quality. One would think that with the numerous rain and drying cycles we experienced that milling quality will not be as high as hoped, but the mills will tell us more about that as the rice crop comes out of the on-farm bins. Maybe the late maturity of the crop will work in our producers’ favor after all.

As a whole, we are just thankful that it is over and we can look forward to 2010.

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