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Arkansas harvesting big rice crop

The Arkansas rice harvest is in full swing. The Arkansas Agricultural Statistics Service said 58 percent of the crop had been harvested by Sept. 21.

“How far along you are depends on where you farm,” said Jeff Branson, rice research verification program coordinator for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. He said some farmers in southeast Arkansas are finished while northeast Arkansas farmers lag far behind.

Branson said rain in the fall is more of a delay than it is in August, because it takes the ground longer to dry out. He said farmers can harvest the crop in mud, but it's slower going, and heavy equipment ruts up the ground. When the ground is rutted in the fall, it usually means more trips across the field in the spring to get the ground into good planting condition. That costs time and money.

One Arkansas County farmer reported being 60 percent through with harvest, but a third of the remaining crop had lodged because of weather problems.

The good news is that the statistics service is projecting a record statewide average yield of 145 bushels an acre.

Branson said many farmers are reporting fields that are harvesting 200 bushels an acre. Yields over 200 bushels an acre are not uncommon in parts of the state, but he said it's the first year he's heard those reports from the Missouri border to the Louisiana border.

He said the highest yield he's heard of was 238 dry bushels in Arkansas County, which is “out of the ballpark.”

Branson said there are long lines of farm trucks at grain elevators. One farmer reported having to stop harvesting temporarily while waiting for his trucks to return from elevators.

Wells and Francis, the two newest varieties released by the University of Arkansas, have performed “extremely well,” Branson said. Reported yields for Francis and Wells are anywhere from 150 bushels an acre to 238 bushels.

“The Clearfield varieties are also doing well. They're cleaning up 150,000 acres of rice that were heavily infested with red rice, weren't cutting high yields and were getting poor grades. I'm hearing yields as high as170 to180 bushels. Most farmers seem pleased with Clearfield,” Branson noted.

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

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