2018 Arkansas rice production marks recovery from 2017 flooding

early season arkansas rice harvest

Yields from early harvested Arkansas rice fields in 2018 were encouraging, according to a Arkansas-Crops blog post by Dr. Jarrod Hardke.

Even if the fall of 2018 marked the “harvest that never ended,” Arkansas growers managed to pull enough rice from the land to mark a 30 percent increase over 2017’s disastrous numbers, which reflected the severe spring flooding of that year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service recently released state-by-state crop and stock reports, the first new data available from the department since the 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government.

Not only was 2018 a strong year for Arkansas rice growers, with a total production of 107 million hundredweight, but U.S. rice as a whole, says Jarrod Hardke, Extension rice agronomist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

“Arkansas rice yield and acres came right in line with expectation,” he says. “However, it was surprising to see a substantial increase in overall U.S. yields, which marks the second highest on record. Some individual state yields increased more than 800 pounds per acre over previous estimates.”

Some Arkansas crops saw modest year-over-year increases, including corn, which rose 7 percent to 117 million bushels, and upland cotton, which also rose 7 percent to an estimated 1.15 million bales. Several Extension agronomists described these results as unsurprising and generally in line with annual averages.

Soybeans lag behind

The state’s No. 1 crop, soybean, saw a 7 percent decline in production from 2017, falling to about 165.2 million bushels. The dip was overshadowed by the increasing supply on hand, accumulated in part due to the ongoing trade dispute with China.

Nationwide, total stocks of stored soybeans rose 18 percent over 2017 numbers to more than 3.7 billion bushels, stored both on farms and off. Soybean stocks stored on farms, specifically, totaled 1.94 billion bushels, up 30 percent from a year ago.

Although the report didn’t make available numbers for Arkansas, the national situation reflected what Arkansas growers are dealing with, says Scott Stiles, Extension economist for the Division of Agriculture.

“Normally, we use the bulk of on-farm storage for corn and rice,” Stiles says. “Given the quality issues, drop in soybean prices and weakness in the basis at harvest, my feeling was that our growers would allocate a lot more bin space to soybeans following the 2018 crop.”

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.