Monday, October 25, 2021

Rice harvest in the Delta hits the home stretch

• By Steve Linscombe •

rice harvest near Stuttgart, Arkansas
Full steam ahead for rice harvest on this farm near Stuttgart, Arkansas — photo by Jay Coker

Rice harvest is well underway in the northern rice production area of the Mid-South where a high percentage of U.S. rice is grown. In general, yields have been good to excellent while head rice milling yields are off-somewhat.

More than 50% of Arkansas rice is harvested at this point, according to Dr. Jarrod Hardke, University of Arkansas rice Extension specialist, as harvest completion ranges between 30% to 75% for individual producers. “Yields have mostly been exceptional with occasional poor fields as outliers,” Hardke said. “Milling quality has been below average and extremely erratic with some good and above average milling out there, but they are the exceptions. Peck levels are notably higher than last year.”

Wes Long, who consults in Arkansas and Lonoke counties, said his customers are 65%  harvested with consistent above-average yields except for row rice, which has been below average. Long also reported milling quality issues with head rice yields there are considerably lower than last year.

Around Harrisburg, south of Jonesboro, harvest is about 50% complete with some producers still waiting to start and others almost done, according to Collin Holzhauer with Southern Rice and Cotton.

“As far as yield, everyone has the same story: very solid so far for all varieties,” he said. “However, milling is a different story. I’ve seen milling as low as a 39/70 and the highest has been a 53/70.”

Mississippi passes halfway mark

Mississippi is well into harvest as well. Jason Bond, weed scientist at the Delta Research and Extension center in Stoneville, estimates that the Mississippi rice harvest is 50% to 65% completed. He said yields are good to excellent with limited reports on milling.

Austin Davis farms near Cleveland and reports that his operation completed rice harvest on Sept. 15 and that yields appear to be somewhat above average on the whole. Kirk Satterfield, also near Cleveland, agreed that Mississippi is about 50% harvested and yields are good.

Mississippi is dealing with quite a bit of lodged rice due to Hurricane Ida that passed through on Monday, Aug. 30, bringing high winds and some rainfall that effected a significant amount of rice.

Missourri lags behind

Missouri and North Louisiana are lagging somewhat behind their neighbors in harvest progress. Justin Chlapecka, University of Missouri rice specialist, estimates that Missouri is 15% to 20% harvested.

Zach Tanner, near Bernie, said that yields and test weights are excellent, and some rice is cutting over 230 bushels dry weight per acre (12-13% grain moisture). Blake Gerard farms across the Mississippi River in Southern Illinois and has not begun harvesting yet but hopes to start by Thursday or Friday this week.

North Louisiana also is behind 

North Louisiana is behind historical harvest percentage as well. Scott Franklin with Holly Ridge Rice and Grain, Marley Oldham with Kennedy Rice Mill and John Owen who farms near Alto, all agreed that harvest is around 20% 30% in their areas. It may be a little higher elsewhere in North Louisiana.

In general, yields are strong across varieties with milling on hybrids being somewhat low and at least average for pure lines. Oldham opined that North Louisiana rice harvest will extend into November this year because of delays in planting and some replanting due to backwater flooding.

One common theme heard in the region is that rice has been slow to dry in the field due to recent weather. However, the consensus is that the front pushing through the area today (Sept. 22) should shift winds to the north, lowering the humidity and allowing grain drying to proceed nicely.

Dr. Steve Linscombe is the director of The Rice Foundation. He may be reached at slinscombe@usarice.com.

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