Record grain yields were last achieved in Louisiana during the 2014 growing season when we were blessed with very favorable weather conditions. Until 2018, each crop since 2014 had been successively lower yielding than the year before. Louisiana saw constant rainfall and cloudy conditions nearly the entire rice growth period in 2015.
In 2016, record flooding occurred when more than 24 inches of rainfall was recorded in a 36-hour period during harvest in some areas in southwest Louisiana. The 2017 season saw more flooding, albeit earlier in the season, and poor growing conditions throughout the remainder of the season.
I would say Louisiana was due for a good year. Fortunately, Louisiana had more favorable growing conditions in 2018, and near-record yields were obtained, but there were many agronomic challenges along the way.
Louisiana planted just more than 434,000 acres in 2018. Planting was spread out more evenly than normal from the period beginning in late February through March, mainly due to wet soil conditions caused by frequent, but not excessive, rainfall.
The Rice Variety by Parish Survey conducted annually by Extension agents indicated that Louisiana planted approximately 89 percent long-grain, 10 percent medium-grain and 1 percent special-purpose rice varieties.
The top planted rice varieties and hybrids included CL153 (19.5 percent), CL111 (14 percent), Cheniere (11.9 percent), Mermentau (10.5 percent), CLXL745 (9.7 percent), Jupiter (5.8 percent) and XP753 (4.9 percent). Clearfield seed technology in both inbred and hybrid rice varieties made up approximately 59 percent of the acres. The new Provisia herbicide technology was available for the first time in 2018 in a variety named PVL01, and it was planted on approximately 10,000 acres or 2.3 percent of the total acreage.
The first real challenge of 2018 was cool weather. Most of March and the first couple weeks of April were cooler than normal. In fact, we even had a daily low temperature in early April that reached into the mid-30s. Cold damage, delayed growth and development, and short and stunted plants were common early on.
Rice stressed by cold weather also tended to be more susceptible to herbicide damage with many of our commonly used early season rice herbicides. The rice herbicide Loyant was available to growers for the first time in 2018. Loyant is a unique herbicide in that it is an auxin and it has activity on broadleaves, sedges and even some grasses. It was used on many acres during its first year of availability, and we learned a lot about the herbicide.
First, it is only effective on small grasses and is not effective in controlling the larger grass problems. However, it is very effective in controlling soybeans, and several drift issues with the herbicide were recorded. Rice can also be damaged by the herbicide when used on recently land-leveled fields or when other rice stresses (like cold stress) are present. Hybrid rice also seemed to be more susceptible to the damage than conventional rice.
The weather turned hot almost overnight in late April — like a light switch was turned on. Pre-flood nitrogen fertilizer applications were easily made in 2018, making the fertilizer efficiency higher than in most years. The drought-like conditions made the rice move quickly and favorable for high yields due to the lower disease potential. The only real problem were growers who could not keep up with the flood due to lower irrigation capacities.
The winter preceding the 2018 planting season was colder than normal, and the sentiment going into the season was that the insect and disease pressure would be lessened to some degree. Disease potential was low due to the drought conditions, and few blast issues were reported. Sheath blight did move in late with some of our more susceptible varieties. Insect pressure from stink bugs and rice water weevil were not overly excessive in 2018.
The rice new Provisia variety PVL01 did better than expected in 2018. We knew going into the season that the variety was lower yielding than all of our other commonly grown varieties and hybrids. We also knew that the technology would enable farmers to clean up Newpath-resistant red rice and weedy rice and still make decent yields, and even higher yield in fields that previously had excessive outcross populations.
We also learned that the cold weather stress also increased the herbicide damage from the Provisia herbicide; however, the control of red rice was excellent. Due to blast susceptibility, two fungicide applications were applied on the variety.
While blast was controlled, sheath blight did become a problem in some fields that received two fungicide applications. Part of the problem is the very leafy canopy of the variety that shielded the fungicide from reaching into the canopy. Nonetheless, the variety probably averaged in the low 40-barrel range in south Louisiana, which I would label a huge success.
The 2018 rice did not set a record, but it will be remembered as one of our highest yielding seasons in Louisiana.
With strong yields, Texas farmers find tight storage and drying facilities
In 2018, Texas rice was grown on about 190,000 acres, of which about 50 percent was planted to hybrids. About 70 percent of our main crop was ratooned (this metric is increasing yearly).
The 2018 Texas main crop produced high yields with good quality, despite a wet, cool spring. At the time of writing this article, I still do not have good yield estimates, but anecdotal average yields appear to be over 8,000 pounds per acre dry weight for the main crop. In general, the ratoon crop is looking very good, but we have had some very wet weather in September that could lead to disease and pollination problems.
Because of our high yields, limited storage/drying facilities and low prices for rice, Texas farmers were having a difficult time finding a home for their crop. In some instances, farmers had to delay harvest past optimum harvest moisture because of a lack of bins. Clearly, this leads to lower quality (e. g. lower head rice yield). It can also lead to increased problems with stored rice pests, such as lesser grain borer and Angoumois grain moth.
As far as pest management, a problem earlier in the season was Loyant injury to rice, but reports from the field indicate this issue is being addressed by private industry.
Disease pressure has been light, but we have had some problems with insects. For instance, rice water weevil populations were higher than normal, so those farmers who applied an insecticide to their seed made a good decision. My research is beginning to find less-than-expected control of rice water weevil with pyrethroids. We will be doing more studies on this subject.
We also observed more chinch bug injury to rice compared to the past several years. However, farmers were able to manage chinch bugs with timely flushes/floods or selected insecticides.
In October, we found another infestation of the rice delphacid/planthopper, which is an exotic pest from Latin America. I did not observe the disease hoja blanca in the infested field, but I did see very high numbers of rice delphacid nymphs and adults (well over 1,000 per 10 sweeps). This is the second time in three years this critter has invaded Texas ratoon rice. We are in the process of trying to obtain a crisis exemption for two insecticides we believe will provide good control of the rice delphacid.
Better lucky than good?
The 2018 Arkansas rice season couldn’t make up its mind. Despite season-long struggles, the end result has surprised most everyone. A near-record cold April followed with a record hot May and set us up for an “ugly” rice crop.
Planting began in earnest in late March with fair planting conditions. The weather then turned very cold and wet for the next few weeks bringing things to a standstill. Once it warmed back up again, it warmed all the way to hot and the rain refused to fall. A lot of rice then went in the ground in a short period of time. A lack of rainfall led to the need to flush where possible to achieve optimum stands and activate herbicides.
We were finally rescued with some rain in May that again looked like it might not stop. The result was one of the grassiest crops in most anyone’s memory banks. Despite that, most of it was cosmetic as the weed density didn’t appear to be holding back the rice.
The hot, dry conditions continued throughout most of June and July. Flooding of fields took twice as long as usual due to the extremely dry conditions. This did not help with weed control or nitrogen management. By late summer, we had what looked like a very good crop in the field. Late July gave us a reprieve from high temperatures, and a little rainfall helped us along. Once combines started rolling, it became apparent that the crop was even better than thought.
The state average yield estimate according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture is 166.6 bushels per acre for 2018 on approximately 1.422 million acres — an amazing yield considering the difficulties of this season. If it holds, that will be the third highest state average yield on record behind only 2013 and 2014 at 168 bushels per acre and slightly ahead of 2012 and 2017.
Milling yields were phenomenal during the early part of harvest. Once Tropical Storm Gordon brought rain into the state in mid-September, milling yields have been heading south. Hopefully the early quality balances it all out.
The shift to furrow-irrigated rice (row rice) continues in Arkansas. I estimate we had about 100,000 acres of row rice this year, and the success most experienced will lead to a further increase in 2019.
‘We had July in May’
As I write this article (Oct. 15), rain falls across most of the Mississippi Delta. Fortunately, we are about 96 percent harvested with only a few fields of extremely late-planted rice remaining.
Environmental conditions dominated the 2018 season. To recap, we started quick with large chunks of rice planted in March prior to the rainfall that resulted in many mid-March planted fields requiring 20-plus days to emerge.
The remaining acres were planted in a 10-day window in April. The season was met with normal challenges of off-target herbicide movement early and late in the year, and extremely dry conditions in early May due to abnormal heat. Colleague Dr. Jason Bond’s favorite line on our podcast this year was, “We had July in May.”
The abnormal heat influenced water management and herbicide performance more so than during recent years. Yield reports in many parts of the state have been average to above average.
Looking forward, the first question is what do I plant next year? There are numerous excellent varieties and hybrids available in the Clearfield and conventional management systems. With so many options available, it’s often difficult to decide. Relying on university-sponsored variety trials, conducted at multiple locations can ultimately aid in seed selection decisions.
Mississippi’s 2018 on-farm variety trials evaluated 36 entries at seven locations. Data collected from these trials are available at the Mississippi Crop Situation blog (http://www.Mississippi-crops.com) and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station variety trial website (http://mafes.msstate.edu/variety-trials/). The document contains small-plot variety testing data as well as disease reaction ratings and N fertilization suggestions.
Of the entries evaluated, 20 will be commercially available for 2019. When considering yield averaged across all locations, most cultivars performed well, with standouts among conventional inbred varieties including Diamond (220 bu/ac) and Thad (216 bu/ac) compared to Rex (227 bu/ac) as the control. Diamond and Thad were released by Arkansas and Mississippi, respectively.
Each variety has performed well on limited commercial acres. The newer rice hybrids RT7801 (267 bu/ac) and RT7311 CL (277 bu/ac) produced similar yield, greater than CLXL745 (237 bu/ac).
If red rice is an issue and a Clearfield or Provisia variety is preferred, CL153 (220 bu/ac) has performed well but shatters easily. The newly released Provisia, PVL01 (188 bu/ac), produced good yields and excellent grass control on limited acres.
Keep in mind the incidence of ALS-resistant barnyardgrass and rice flatsedge has increased in Mississippi, and stewardship remains important.
A wealth of data is annually generated on varietal performance across the Mid-South by universities and industry. But do not overlook perhaps the most important data in selecting a variety — past performance on your farm. Remember, no single variety is the silver bullet, and spreading risk with multiple varieties and production systems is a good practice.
2018 conditions proved favorable to California rice
As of writing in mid-October, a little more than 50 percent of the California rice crop is harvested, so the harvest is delayed by about a week relative to average. However, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the 50 percent planting date was May 20, which is also about a week later than normal, so the season length (planting to harvest) is fairly typical. The delay in planting was due to April rainfall that delayed land preparation.
Overall, the season was favorable. July was a bit warmer and August a bit cooler than usual. Wildfires around the Sacramento Valley in late July and early August lead to two to three weeks of smoky skies, which lowered solar radiation, although it is too early to say how this may have impacted crop performance.
Armyworms were not a problem this year as they have been the past couple of years. Weed control was generally good; however, there were a number of complaints about herbicide-resistant weeds – particularly watergrass.
Weedy rice has been an emerging problem in California. This year, a new type was found in Butte County (that makes a total of six types). Generally, in fields that have had weedy rice in the past, weedy rice infestations were lower where growers took recommended steps to control it.
Harvest began in mid-September. Some rain in early October slowed harvest, but since then there have been fairly strong north winds and low humidity, allowing for harvest to progress rapidly.
There is some lodged rice but not nearly as bad as last year. There are also more complaints about kernel smut this year. Based on last year’s findings, kernel smut has the potential to reduce grain quality.
Based on early estimates, it seems that yields are higher than last year, and so far milling quality is good. However, the continued strong north winds accompanied by low humidity may lower grain quality in rice harvested later in the season.