Wednesday, June 12, 2024

That bare patch in rice might not be disease, insect or soil problem


When it comes to diagnosing problems in rice, farmers have a lot to choose from including disease, drought, flood, insects, soil health and weeds. However, Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division, is adding a new possibility to the list: lightning.

Close up photo of burnt rice plants with cracked soil beneath
Bare patches in a rice field may not be a sign of a disease, insect or soil problem. Instead, a lightning strike might be to blame for that patch of burnt plants. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

In his June 28 “Rice and Advice” episode on YouTube and Instagram, Hardke showed an oddly shaped patch of young row rice that seemed to be more cracked and bare soil than rice.

“Right off the bat, you can see the rice in this area definitely has a problem,” he said. Pulling closer and pointing to some blackened plants, “This rice pretty much looks like a crispy critter.”

Hardke said the irregular shape of the affected area “can be explained by the lightning hitting it when the water is on the field.”

Often when a lightning strike happens in a rice field without water, the resulting pattern is “more of a circular appearance overall to the affected area. Right at the center, there will be maybe a one- or two-foot circle that just looks like a burnt little hay-filled spot in the middle of a bullseye.”

But if it hits standing water, “there’s no telling which direction it’s going to go,” he said. “Flood depth and a lot of other factors are going to change the impact on the rice and everything surrounding it.

“It’s really just one of those oddities,” Hardke said.

Mary Hightower is University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture communications director. She may be reached at

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