Every rice-growing region, farm and field is different, and it’s
up to individual farmers to decide what works best for their
operations. In the Missouri Bootheel, Don Worley and his
two sons, Curtis and Jake, have found that hybrid rice yields
a little higher for them than varietal rice, especially on the lighter
soils that are common in the Poplar Bluff area.
“When I was 15 years old, I bought my first 80 acres and started
farming a total of about 400 acres in 1960,” Don says. “From there,
I have gradually built up the operation to what it is now.”
Today, the Worleys grow rice and soybeans, although rice wasn’t
a part of the mix until 1978 – a few years after the government allotment was lifted in Arkansas. In looking back to his
early rice-growing years, Don remembers that there
was very little graded ground then. Instead, there
seemed to be levees on top of levees.
“Almost all of our ground is laser-leveled now,
which works well with our rice and soybean rotation,”
Seeding Rates Vary
As for their rice operation, the Worleys plant 1,650
acres of hybrids – XP753, Clearfield XL745 and
Clearfield XL729 – and 240 acres of CL151.
“The hybrids have a great disease package,” Curtis
says. “We don’t have to scout them as much as we do
our varieties. We usually average 180 bushels per
acre with our hybrids and 140 to 150 bushels per acre
with our varieties. We see the greatest yield spread
between hybrids and varieties on the lighter type soil.”
Curtis also notes that on average over the last six
years, they have realized about $100 an acre more
with hybrids because of the yields and the disease
packages and are pleased with the improved straw
strength on the hybrids that they plant. The Worleys
agree that Clearfield rice has done a good job of cleaning
up their red rice problems, allowing them to rotate
with soybeans every other year, which is a good stewardship
practice to help preserve the technology.
Seeding rates also vary for the Worley operation.
They plant the hybrids at 20 pounds per acre and CL151 at 65 to 70
pounds per acre compared to 80 to 90 pounds per acre for varieties
such as Wells and Francis.
“We’re able to use such low seeding rates with the hybrids because
they tiller real well,” Curtis says.
Reduced Input Costs
The Worleys say they have been able to improve their bottom line
by growing hybrids because they have been able to reduce some of the
inputs typically associated
with growing rice.
“Because of the disease
packages, we don’t have
any fungicide costs on the
hybrids,” Curtis says. “For
the past few years with hotter
summers and warmer
bacterial panicle blight started
showing up in the varieties.
The rice didn’t have
a chance to cool off, which
provided the perfect environment
for that fungus. The 2010 season was really
bad. With the hybrids, we
didn’t have a problem with
bacterial panicle blight. It
didn’t show up.”
The Worleys also were
able to cut back on the
amount of nitrogen (N) they applied on the hybrids, which, given the high price of N, meant significant
“We put out 135 actual units on the hybrids and 150 actual units on
the varieties,” Don says. “We are in a better position now in regard to
N applications than we were with some of the older varieties where
the recommendation might be as much as 180 actual units of nitrogen.”
Method Of Irrigating
All of the water, excluding rainfall, for rice and soybeans on this Missouri farm comes from wells as opposed to pivots. The Worleys
have 56 wells that are 115 to 125 feet deep.
“We are lucky to have one of the biggest aquifers in the area,
which provides a good supply of underground water,” Don says.
“We have both electric and diesel/propane wells. We prefer the electric
wells, but, in some cases, it’s not feasible to run electricity to
them. The electric wells are more expensive to operate, but they are
a lot more convenient.”
In the marketing arena, the Worleys do most of their business with
Riceland Foods, Inc.
“At this time, Riceland doesn’t segregate hybrid and conventional
rice, and they don’t discount hybrid rice either,” Curtis says.
When asked how they split up the responsibilities among the family
members on the farm, Don says, “Curtis is the rice man, and Jake
does the planting.” The two sons smiled and, in unison, quickly
spoke up saying, “And he’s the boss.”
The Worley operation has grown and evolved since Don bought that
first 80 acres in 1960. The ground has been leveled, the wells dug, the
rice production system fine-tuned, and his two sons work by his side
every day. If you’re into farming rice, the Missouri Bootheel is a
good place to be, and the hybrids continue to thrive on its signature
Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worley Family Works Together, Plays Together In ‘Hot Farm Tractor’ Class
Not only do brothers Curtis and Jake
Worley enjoy operating big machinery to
complete the day-to-day tasks on their
Missouri farm, their penchant for iron carries
over into their recreational time, too.
In fact, they compete as a team in the
“Hot Farm Tractor” class in tractor pulling,
or power pulling, which is a popular
The machines that compete in this class
are considered “high-performance modified”
rather than stock tractors.
“You start with a basic tractor chassis
and a stock motor that you have bored
out to where you can run a bigger cubic
inch engine, according to the class you
are going into,” Jake says. “Then you can
add things like an aftermarket injection
pump and an aftermarket turbo to help
turn the tractor into a high-performance
“I once had an 1155 Massey Ferguson,”
he adds. “I drove it for a while, then
sold it and bought an International. Curtis
runs a 2805 Massey that originally had
150 hp, but after being modified, it was
up to 2,000 hp.”
Tractor pulling requires that contestants
pull a heavy sled with a weight on
top of it that moves forward as the sled is
pulled down the track. This motion creates
resistance, so the further along the tractor
goes, the harder it becomes to pull the
sled. The tractor that pulls the sled the
farthest is the winner.
“We also have to follow certain safety
guidelines,” Curtis says. “For example, we
have to wear fireproof suits and regulation
helmets. Three roll bars surround the driver to protect him in case the tractor tips over.”
Although Jake and Curtis may work hard on the farm, they admit they play just as hard on the track. If you happen to catch one of these
events in the future, keep an eye out for Red Revolution and Red Addiction, or Curtis and Jake as they are known around town.