2019 Mid-South rice planting season appears to be running in slow motion

2019 Mississippi rice planting video

Click to watch this video about challenges Mississippi growers are experiencing trying to plant this year’s rice crop.

The 2019 rice planting season seems like it’s running in slow motion.

Nationwide, slightly more than half of the anticipated acres had been planted as of May 12, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Progress report. That compares to 81 percent at the same time in 2018.

Bobby Golden, Mississippi State University Extension rice agronomist, says growers in his state probably haven’t hit the half-way point yet. But he predicts some of the acres originally expected to be in rice will go unplanted.

Jarrod Hardke, University of Arkansas Extension rice specialist, has a similar outlook.

usda crop progress report May 12

Courtesy USDA (click on chart to enlarge)

“We’re now officially more than 50 percent planted, but why does it not feel that way?” he wrote in the May 17 Arkansas Rice Update newsletter. Fig. 1 continues to show us holding tight to 2013 progress, and I can only hope that we see a repeat of that year’s summer conditions and yields. At this point of the year, we were at 52 percent in 1985, 41 percent in 1984, 40 percent in 1993, 35 percent in 1993 and 34 percent in 1991. Since records began in 1981, those are the only years with slower planting progress than 2019.”

The deadline to sign up for crop insurance in many Arkansas and Mississippi counties and the prevented planting program is May 25, with the late-planted window extending to June 9. And Hardke says he suspects many growers will continue to plant into early June.

arkansas planting progress chart

Chart courtesy Dr. Jarrod Hardke, University of Arkansas

Depending on the year, yields in Arkansas begin to drop off past mid-April, according to University of Arkansas planting date studies.

The reason for this year’s delays is simple: rain, rain and more rain, beginning with the 2018 harvest.

Rains hampered the 2018 harvest, and many growers rutted up fields trying to get their crops out. The rain continued throughout the winter and spring, with storms popping up during the current planting season.

After getting a late start this spring because of wet ground, many growers had to begin essentially from scratch and plow their fields to remove ruts. During a normal year, they would prepare fields shortly after harvest so they would be ready to plant the following spring.