Specialists Speaking


Dr. M.O. “Mo” Way
Rice Research Entomologist

It was an ugly year

Rice was planted on about 165,000 acres in 2016 compared to about 130,000 in 2015, according to the Texas Rice Crop Survey. This increase was due to release of water to farmers along the Colorado and Brazos Rivers following a wet winter, which helped fill upstream reservoirs.

The most popular varieties grown in Texas in 2016 were XL723, Presidio and CLXL745. Solid yield figures are not yet available from the Texas Rice Crop Survey, but when they become available, I will summarize and report them.

However, reports from the field suggest main crop yields will be down as bit this year compared to last year. I do know that increased rice acreage combined with a lot of rice being harvested at the same time put pressure on storage/drying facilities to handle the demand. There is concern that the ratoon crop harvest will put added pressure on these facilities.

It was a very challenging year for Texas rice farmers—the weather and the market were not ideal. In my 30-plus years working at the Beaumont Center, I have not experienced such a wet year.

For instance, during March and April 2016, the Beaumont Center received a whopping 21 inches of rain. This coincided with rice planting, so you can see the difficulty in getting rice in during the optimum planting window of mid-March through mid-April.

Temperatures during March and April were lower than normal; thus, emergence was slow and stands, in some cases, were less than ideal and non-uniform. Relentless rains also played havoc with aerial applications of fertilizer and pesticides.

Main crop harvesting operations frequently rutted fields (again, due to untimely rain), which will negatively affect the ratoon crop. Finally, harvest of the main crop was often delayed because field roads were too wet for the combines, trucks and weigh wagons to negotiate. As one crop consultant put it, “It was an ugly year.”

As far as insect damage, rice water weevil populations were “normal”; however, very late-planted rice probably escaped high pressure. Some good news: as of Oct. 10, we have not observed any rice planthoppers, Tagosodes orizicolus, this year nor have we received any infestation reports from the field.

Insecticidal seed treatments continue to be used routinely for control of most of the insects attacking rice in Texas. In addition, Tenchu 20SG continues to be deployed as the first line of defense against the rice stink bug attacking heading and milk stage rice. But we need another rice stink bug insecticide with residual activity. Some crop consultants have raised their treatment thresholds for rice stink bug, and I personally agree with this change, based on my project’s past research.

In general, disease pressure was “normal” in 2015. Smut continues to be a problem for rice being grown in specific locations in the Texas Rice Belt, but it was not as bad this year as last. Dr. Shane Zhou, rice pathologist at the Beaumont Center, reports brown spot was especially severe on the medium-grain variety, Jupiter, due to excessively wet weather conducive to disease development. There have been some complaints that propiconazole is not as effective against narrow brown leaf spot as in the past.

Neally’s sprangletop continues to spread with reports that it is difficult to control. Barnyard grass, hemp sesbania (particularly in organic rice) and weedy rice are some of our most common, troublesome weeds.

Thanks to Shane Zhou, Lee Tarpley, Cliff Mock, Glenn Crane, Muthu Bagavathiannan, Young-ki Jo and Dick Ottis for helping me write this 2016 rice wrap-up.




bobbygolden2DR. BOBBY GOLDEN
Extension Rice Specialist

Environment was key in ’16

To wrap up the 2016 rice growing season in the Mississippi Delta in a few words is about as easy as the year went. Starting as early as the first week of August, everywhere you went one common phrase could be heard—“When will this year end?”

The year started off strong with the largest planting intention in Mississippi in the past few years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projected about 200,000 acres, up about 30 percent from the 145,000 acres we ended with in 2015.

When all the acres are counted, we will more than likely end up with about 170,000 certified acres for the 2016 season. Similar to years past, Bolivar County planted the most rice acreage in Mississippi. Similar to the past three years, most of the rice acreage was cultivated north of Highway 82 with rice seeded in approximately 16 of the 19 Delta counties.

However, this year brought more acreage south of Highway 82 than we have observed in the past several years. As of Oct. 13, we have a yield projection of 6,975 pounds per acre, which is considerably lower than the past several years.

The year started off with a bang, with planting progress occurring at almost record pace. By May 5, about 70 percent of the state’s total acreage was in the ground, with 95 percent planted by May 19. This pace eclipsed the 2015 pace as well as the 3-, 5- and 10-year  average.

In other words, most of the state’s acreage was planted on time, and we got off to a great start to set up the year for success. Unfortunately, soon after rice emerged, off-target herbicide drift calls began to come in.

Much like the past two years, most of the off-target drift complaints centered on paraquat and soybean residual herbicide tankmix partners. Most of the acreage affected by paraquat drift recovered and rice was harvested, in some cases, with adequate yield.

However, much of the affected rice needed additional time to recover and mature, delaying timely management for many aspects associated with production. Again like last year, glyphosate drift was isolated, but the few events that did occur happened at the most inopportune time and seriously reduced grain yield.

Pest pressures related to insects were relatively minor, except for a few weeks where armyworms moved in and affected some later-planted rice fields. In many areas, producers had to deal with escapes of barnyardgrass and sprangletop. We observed, and I had more than one consultant suggest, that this was the grassiest crop they had had in some time.

Most of the escapes were adequately controlled post-flood, but in some areas the critical weed-free period had passed and yield reductions occurred.

On the disease side, unlike 2014 and 2015, rice blast was relatively minor, with a few isolated cases reported. On the other hand, daily rains of at least 0.1 inch for at least a week in late August allowed sheath blight to escalate. In many fields, sheath blight had blown out the top and was visible from the turn row

This season, the greatest concern and one that definitely contributed to reduced yield in the state was the environment from July and August. The combination of heat, wind and rain during rice flowering held back yields many parts of the state.

The portion of the crop that flowered and matured in July met daily maximum air temperatures greater than 92 degrees for the first 27 days of the month. Daily air temperatures cooled into August, but wind and rain damage to flowering rice was just as detrimental as the early heat.

I believe the was environment played the largest role in the roller coaster yields observed in many cases across the turn row during the 2016 growing season. 2016 shaped up to be what I would consider an average year overall.


Extension Agronomist
University of California, Davis

Randall Mutters


Drought? What drought?

Well, at least that might be said for growers in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California. At the beginning of the 2016 growing season, the reservoirs that serve rice growers were at 85 percent capacity, which was above the historical average for that time of year. However, winter precipitation in the central and southern portions of the state remained well below normal.

Consequently, growers in the San Joaquin Valley received only about 25 percent of their contractual water allotments from state and federal sources, resulting in a substantial acreage of unplanted farmland. Meanwhile, planted rice acres jumped from 423,000 in 2015 to more than 540,000 in 2016.

Spring weather allowed for timely field preparation and planting, which began around the third week of April. The notable exception were those fields in the final stages of preparation that received a late spring rain in mid-May.

Stand establishment, nitrogen management and weed control were problematic enough in those fields to depress yields a bit. As of this writing, about 75 percent of the crop has been harvested. Early reports indicate yields are strong.

Documented yields, thus far, are as high as 123 hundredweight per acre (dry weight; 273 bushels per acre). The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting the statewide average to come in around 86 cwt.

Early returns on milling quality for many are in the 65/70 range (head and total). The quality of later-harvested rice may be lower, however. In recent years, the California harvest season has been exceptionally dry with few, if any, rehydrating dews or rains.

As a result, growers enjoyed high milling yields even when harvesting medium-grain varieties below 17 percent moisture content. Moist weather is returning early this year. Growers harvesting at low moisture may not enjoy the high milling returns of recent years due to fissuring caused by moist weather. But then again, that is only conjecture at this point.

One notable problem this year is the reappearance of weedy red rice (WRR) in California. WRR has been discovered a few times over the years. The last time was in 2003 when it was found in a couple of fields on the west side of the valley.

The affected growers made a largely successful effort to remove the weed. In 2016, WRR was found again. Credit must be given to Timothy Blank, California Crop Improvement Association, for spotting the problem while inspecting certified seed fields.

The University of California, in cooperation with the Rice Experiment Station, growers and private advisers, identified WRR in fields scattered across the region. This new infestation likely started a while back but only recently reached a level where populations were easily identified.

There appears to be several different biotypes. Numerous samples were collected and genetic fingerprinting is currently underway at the Rice Experiment Station. This is undoubtedly a serious problem.

The research community, in collaboration with the California Rice Commission, is working to formulate a sound management plan and education program. More information will be available at the winter growers’ meetings. In meantime if you think that you might have WRR in a field, please contact your local UC Cooperative Extension office for assistance.


Agronomy Specialist

Sam Atwell

Diversity rained on 2016

The 2016 Missouri rice growing season was the most diverse we have experienced in many years. Overall, yields are off probably 15 percent from the 5-year average. We had areas with high yields, but most were off 10 percent. A few were devastated and produced fewer than 100 bushels per acre.

The cause of extreme variation is easy to see and diagnose after the fact, but some good growers, with good consultants, looking closely and using integrated pest management got caught. This was after a very good start this spring.

What happened? Floods, disease, insects, weeds, weather, lodging and price all had an impact on low yields in specific fields.

Widespread lodging, which resulted in very slow harvest, was worse than I’ve seen in years due to weather with high winds and very heavy rains.

Floods topped over rice in a few fields, especially on the west side of Bootheel. Associated with the floods were prolong periods of heavy clouds, fog and high humidity, which were ideal for diseases not to mention poor spraying conditions.

We also had the worst outbreak of rice stalk borer I’ve seen along with heavy stinkbugs in some areas. What did price have to do with yields sliding? Well, cutting costs by choosing more conventional varieties in a few cases may have contributed to more pests, especially red rice and diseases.

However, everything I just said was the opposite in a few fields. In early October, a very good farmer with a respected consultant called me to his field with a history of more than 180 bushels per acre. It was cutting fewer than 80. It was CL151, planted April 5, weed free, fertilized and watered well, and with a fungicide. It looked good except the heads were blank.

The rice had a severe case of blast neck rot and rice stalk borer. He asked me what he should have done differently? Looking back after the fact, we could see a need for a more resistant blast variety with another fungicide and insecticide spray.

On a positive note, with all the rain we probably had the lowest pumping cost in years. The weather played well for the increased acreage of row or bedded rice planted in Missouri this year. Most of those acres did well,  but you can’t count on rain to grow rice.

LaKast and CL151 were the workhorse varieties with good and bad reports for both, depending on local conditions. Very early varieties didn’t fare well at all.


Rice Extension Agronomist
University of Arkansas,
Cooperative Extension Service

Multiple cultivars

hardke2I hope there’s nowhere to go but up. The 2016 Arkansas rice season brought a score of difficulties, not the least of which was a low commodity price.

Planting progress moved at a near-record pace, trailing only 2010 and 2012. More than half the state’s rice was planted by April 15. The issue with this early planting is that the majority occurred in the northern half of the state. With the slightly cooler temperatures there, germination and emergence were delayed for two to three weeks after planting.

In contrast, the southeast portion of the state that normally leads planting was delayed by record rainfall that also affected northeast Louisiana. Once fields dried, the progress was incredibly rapid. Due to the warmer temperatures, rice progress in the southeast quickly began to outpace the northern half the state.  Altogether, more than 1.55 million acres of rice were planted in Arkansas.

After a mostly dry March and April, regular and sometimes heavy rains began to hit the state throughout May. In many cases, this caused complete flooding of newly planted fields or seeding rice fields. As many producers found out, seedling rice can survive a long time underwater; however, rice that hasn’t emerged will only last between six and 10 days and generally no more than 14.

In May, windows of dry weather allowed fertilizing and flooding of rice. Some fields met with washout rains soon after fertilization—complicating nitrogen efficiency. These field-specific situations required detailed evaluation of potential nitrogen losses to determine fertilizer additions to help maximize grain yields.

While May looked like the season would turn into a struggle with wet conditions, the well ran dry in June and July. For many there was no measurable rainfall from about June 1 to about August 1. Growing conditions were excellent throughout this period until mid-July when the daytime and nighttime temperatures began to get excessive.

The high temperatures contributed directly to lower-than-expected yields across the board. However, hybrid yields were similar to 2015 (still disappointing), but varieties were well off the pace coming in 20- to 40-plus bushels per acre below expectation. In addition to the heat, periods of heavy rainfall set in for August, leading to flooding of 40,000 acres of rice in the northeast, sprouting of rice kernels on the panicle in standing rice throughout the state, and subsequently reduced milling yields.

The heat resulted in a substantial number of blank kernels, which was the primary cause of our yield declines. However, these losses were exaggerated further as pop-up thunderstorms occurred in late July during mid-day to further disrupt flowering and pollination. Once the rain returned in August for 10 consecutive days, so did disease pressure from blast and the smuts, and to a lesser degree bacterial panicle blight.

The state average yield estimate currently sits at 160 bushels per acre for 2016 and shows signs of a continued decline toward around 155 bushels per acre. This is a major fall from the 166 to 168 bushels per acre experienced from 2012-14 and also a drop from the 163 bushels per acre in 2015.

All told, this season will be summed up as a major disappointment given the combination of low grain yields, poor milling yields and low commodity price. The sad and unfortunate reality is that after losing a number of rice producers following the 2015 season, it looks as though we’ll lose far more to the poor economics of 2016.


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