University of Arkansas revamps DD50 program, making it more user friendly

DD50 rice management programThe University of Arkansas has updated its DD50 rice management program to provide more accurate reports and easier access, especially on mobile devises.

The Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board provided funding for the upgrade, says Jarrod Hardke, Extension rice agronomist. Aristotle,Inc., a Little Rock-based web design company, redesigned the DD50 website.

Amy Cole, digital media program director for the Cooperative Extension Service’s office of information technology, says the program has been completely overhauled for 2018. All new computer coding has replaced the outdated program, making it faster and more user friendly.

The program features a new interface, is more usable on multiple Web browsers, and is optimized for use on smart phones and tablets. “Functionality is improved and the interface makes more sense,” she says.

Cole says 249 Arkansas rice producers are enrolled in the program now, representing 2,711 fields totaling more than 215,000 acres.

DD50 provides information and help with timing on more than 25 management decisions based on constantly updated weather conditions, Hardke says. Among them, the program helps farmers time applications for nitrogen fertilizer and insect and disease control, and herbicide cutoff dates.

“DD50 can help rice producers stay very much on track with data-driven management decisisions,” Hardke says.

The program uses 30-year average high and low temperatures for each day in localized areas of Arkansas’ rice-growing region, Hardke says. The temperature data is constantly updated by daily readings from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather stations located throughout the state. The program uses that temperature to calculate heat units, called DD50 units &$#151; or degree days above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The new DD50 program has access to many more of stations than it did before the upgrade, Hardke says, making it considerably more accurate for more farms in more places.

Decades of Division of Agriculture rice research has demonstrated how those heat units affect plant development.

“The program uses the accumulation of DD50 units to track growth and progression of the plants,” he says. “That information helps growers time key actions that help ensure optimum rice yields and quality.”

Hardke says two options are available for farmers or crop consultants who want to participate in the DD50 rice management program.

The first is for producers or consultants to log onto the Cooperative Extension Service website and enter their fields directly at http://DD50.uaex.edu/.

The second is for producers to submit the cultivar, acreage and emergence date information for each rice field to their local county Extension Office. Extension agents will enter the information into the program and send the report to the producer.

Hardke says the preferred option is for producers and consultants to set up an account and enter their own fields so they can check the program for updates as the season progresses.

An online DD50 User’s Guide is available to individuals who access the program through the internet.

“We encourage growers to check the program frequently, especially in a hot year like this one,” Hardke says. “The faster accumulation of DD50 (heat) units means the plants are progressing more quickly and timing of management actions becomes more critical.”

Hardke and Cole plan to keep looking for ways to make the DD50 program more useful.

Hardke says a possible upgrade for next year could include an option to receive text or email alerts. Those alerts could be to give a heads up when five or six of the most critical management actions are coming up or when a significant development in DD50 units causes a change of two days or more in one of those actions.

“The point would be to make sure growers don’t miss specific timings that are critical for a successful crop,” he says.

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.