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Large Arkansas rice crop hits early snags

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The verification program, a part of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, is designed to show participating farmers how they can increase yields and lower costs by following research-based recommendations.

The Arkansas Agricultural Statistics Service estimates the state’s farmers have planted 77 percent of what they had intended to plant as of May 2, compared to 83 percent last year and the five-year average of 71 percent.

Doug Rundle, deputy statistician for the service, says farmers intend to plant about 1.56 million acres, up 95,000 acres from 2003. The Arkansas figure is 48 percent of the acreage that U.S. rice farmers intend to plant this year. It’s guaranteed to keep Arkansas in the top spot in rice acreage.

Branson said farmers in southeast Arkansas have needed rain to help their recently planted seed to emerge. They finally got it in early May. “We thought farmers were going to have to flush fields to get emergence,” Branson said.

The opposite has been true for in northeast Arkansas where farmers are behind because of heavy rains and flooding in April. Branson figures many farmers will have to replant.

“One farmer in our verification program will replant 400 acres of rice in Poinsett County because of the recent flooding,” Branson said.

Some rice is still underwater in Independence and Jackson counties. “Some rice has 4 feet of water on it,” he said.

Farmers can plant rice up until June 1, but they try to be finished planting by May 1 because yield potential typically decreases after that date, Branson said.

Some farmers with flooded Clearfield variety may have trouble finding more seed for replanting, he said. Some dealers have run out of Clearfield seed.

Branson said he has one verification field that was planted with Clearfield in which Newpath herbicide had been applied. “We’ll have to replant it, but luckily, the farmer can still get some seed,” he said.

If farmers have already applied Newpath, they need to replant with Clearfield because the herbicide will kill non-tolerant varieties, according to Branson. If they can’t find Clearfield seed, he advised them to replant with soybeans.

Branson noted that Arkansas farmers last year planted 47 percent of their acreage in Wells, a University of Arkansas long-grain variety. He estimates that even more Wells will be planted this year.

Wells is a high-yielding, long-grain variety. “It’s been out few years and has become extremely popular,” Branson said. He said Cocodrie, a Louisiana State University variety, is still popular, but it’s losing ground to Wells.

Branson said Banks, the first variety with high-yield potential and blast resistance, is going into seed production this year. The combination of high yields and blast resistance will make Banks popular when enough seed becomes available to farmers, he said.

The University of Arkansas has two more releases. Medark, a medium-grain variety, is comparable to Bengal in yield. Cybonnet, a long-grain, semi-dwarf variety, has yield comparable to Cocodrie and extremely high milling quality.

All of these varieties will become important in rice production over the next few years, said Branson.

Meanwhile, the Extension rice expert said Arkansas farmers need warmer weather to get the crop up and growing. He said some fields in Arkansas County are within a week of being flooded by farmers.

He’s not expecting any serious stink bug problems such as farmers saw in 2001.

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

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