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For Arkansas rice farmer: Lower seeding rates boost yields

Anytime a farmer can boost yields without increasing inputs, he figures he's done a pretty good day's work. But if he can boost yields and lower production costs, it's all gravy.

Steven Myers, an Arkansas rice, soybean, wheat and corn farmer, cut rice production expenses by $7 to $10 per acre last year and increased yield by 20 bushels per acre.

Myers, addressing the recent National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference in Houston, said reducing seeding rates from his usual 90 to 100 bushels down to 40 bushels per acre saved money. He also increased plant spacing from 7.5 inches to 9.5 inches. “I put down 15 to 18 seed per foot,” Myers said.

“With high seed costs, reducing seeding rates can save money,” Myers said. “But you have to plant carefully.”

He recommends treating seed and starting early to assure a good stand. “You want a good seedbed that's weed-free,” he said. “And make certain you have a good planter that's calibrated accurately.” He uses a Monosem vacuum planter.

Myers followed the same fertility and fungicide programs he typically uses with higher seeding rates. “Plants still get thick, so we need the regular fungicide rate,” he said.

Myers said the lower seeding rate resulted in a more productive plant. “We had a good canopy and plants with multiple tillers,” he said. “We also had more grain per panicle and better yields. We got a 10 percent to 15 percent yield advantage over higher seeding rates.”

He said low seeding rate fields averaged from 195 bushels to 205 bushels per acre. High seeding rates made 175 bushels. High rates ranged from 70 pounds to 120 pounds of seed per acre.

“Changing from 7.5-inch to 9.5-inch spacing saves a significant amount of seed, he said.

Myers said milling quality is as good with low seeding rates as with higher rates. Maturity date is the same.

Myers said planting to moisture makes a difference. He had one problem field that produced about 25 bushels less per acre than the standard. “We had to flush the field to get the rice up,” he said.

Germination rate ranges from 70 percent to 80 percent.

He said timing may be important with a lot of acres to put in. “We plant about 100 acres a day with our planter. We don't have to fill hoppers as often with the lower seeding rate.”

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