Saturday, May 25, 2024

Planting date considerations for the Upper Mid-South



s you head up the Mississippi River, the Delta soils run out pretty quick after you hit the Missouri state line. From south to north, there are about 85 miles of soils suitable for rice production from the state line to just south of Cape Girardeau. Five counties nestled in the Bootheel account for close to 95% of the state’s 180,000-200,0000 harvested acres, earning Missouri number four in rice production. 

The potential for slightly cooler weather in the Bootheel allows for both good yields and quality to thrive in the area. But, due to Missouri lying on the northern outskirts, the rest of the Mid-South’s rules often don’t exactly apply to how we can manage rice. The University of Arkansas and others have been conducting planting date studies for decades; however, the northernmost site for those historically has been located near the I-40 corridor. Due to our geographical differences, we felt it necessary to define what works this far north, and what doesn’t…

In March of 2022 we initiated the first of what will be an annual, ongoing study in the Bootheel region. The Missouri Rice Council’s Research Farm was the sole site for 2022, with five planting dates spaced approximately three weeks apart from March 17 to June 13. Although the March 17 planting took 36 days to emerge and much longer to start thriving, numerically it outperformed all other planting dates, with an average over all cultivars of 206 bushels per acre (bpa). 

Frost damage on June-planted rice in Missouri. The rice crop was prematurely terminated (L), leading to immature kernels (R) that reduced both grain and milling yield on later-maturing cultivars.

While only one year of data, early frosts (Oct. 18-20) exposed our vulnerability in planting late rice. Later cultivars, especially the inbred varieties that were still in the milk to soft dough stages, were heavily damaged by the frost events while moisture seemed to drop immediately — as did yield potential. The rice averaged 139 bpa across all cultivars; however, that ranged from 184 bpa in one of the better-performing hybrids to near 100 bpa in some of the later varieties. The wide range of yields indicated that planting rice is still on the table through early June, but cultivar selection becomes that much more critical the later in the calendar we get. 

Another interesting trend that revealed itself was the ability of hybrid cultivars to maintain yield potential through some of the later plantings. Hybrid cultivars achieved, on average, 100% of yield potential through April and then began to decrease slightly in May. Inbred varieties, on the other hand, averaged near a 4.5 bpa decrease weekly from the earliest planting, March 17. While one year of data at one site is certainly not the end-all be-all, this does suggest that it’s more important to plant rice early for Missourians. 

Arkansas does not always show the same trends we’ve seen in 2022, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds as we continue this research. Trials will continue at the Rice Research Farm and will hopefully be expanded to a second site. While we rarely get to choose when our planting windows will occur, knowing the yield potential of individual cultivars through these windows can assist our farmers with deciding exactly what to plant when. These trials are meant to be an addition to other factors, such as timing out maturities and harvest to be as efficient as possible. 

It should also be noted that all seed is treated with a fungicide and insecticide treatment. We would not recommend leaving seed in the ground for 36 days without a good jacket! If you’d like more information about these trials or others, data is routinely uploaded to our website at or As always, eat MO rice!  

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