Spread out your risks: Vary planting dates, varieties

Dr. Mo Way
Rice Research Entomologist

I was recently talking with a very reputable Texas rice consultant, and he highly recommended spreading your planting date so all your rice does not mature at the same time. I recall in 2016 rice storage capacity in Texas reached its limit because a lot of rice was planted and harvested at the same time.

Adding to this problem is the fact that newer combines have much higher capacities and can harvest more rice in less time. To avoid having to harvest all your rice at the same time, select varieties with different maturities.

Plant early maturing varieties earlier and late-maturing varieties later. Do not put “all your eggs in one basket” by planting a single variety, particularly if you farm a lot of acres. I also recommend not planting all your fields to a single NEW variety.

Try it out on part of your acreage and as you become familiar with it and if you like it, increase its acreage over time. I think we all remember the fiasco in Texas back in the early 1990s when Rosemont was released.

This semi-dwarf variety had a very high yield potential, so farmers west of Houston went all out and planted this newly released variety on significant acreage. Well, the year of its release coincided with environmental conditions conducive to blast. Unfortunately, Rosemont was highly susceptible to blast, which drastically reduced field yields. At the time, there were no effective fungicides to control this blast epidemic.

There is a definite trend in Texas to plant as early as possible to increase the chances of producing a good ratoon crop and to avoid inclement weather later in the season. We had a dry fall so a lot of Texas farmers took advantage of the weather to prep ground and get it in good shape for early planting this spring.

More than 50 percent of Texas rice in 2017 was planted to hybrids — which, as you know, have low seeding rates. Thus, if you go with a hybrid early, you obviously want to plant into a good seedbed to achieve an adequate stand. I also recommend treating your seed with one of three insecticidal seed treatments: CruiserMaxx Rice, Dermacor X-100 or NipsIt INSIDE.

Here is the link to the 2017 Texas Rice Crop Survey, which represents about 26,000 acres: https://beaumont.tamu.edu/CropSurvey/CropSurveyReport.aspx. This link gives you information on rice yields by variety in 2017.

On a sad note, I want to mention the passing of Tommy Jeff-coat, a long-time rice farmer in Jefferson County. Tommy always had a ready smile and was quite a basketball player in his youth. Tommy taught me the value of careful consideration of inputs, since the ultimate rice farmer objective is net, not gross, profit. RIP Tommy — you are missed.

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