August 4, 2023
Weather conditions delivered a mixed bag of yield and quality results for Texas rice producers, but volatility in the global rice market could help growers, according to Texas A&M AgriLife experts.
Texas rice acres were down compared to last year, and yield numbers and quality have not lived up to the spring-time potential, said Lee Tarpley, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant physiologist, Beaumont.
Drought did impact rice production for farmers west of Houston as water supplies were cut off due to low surface water supplies in the Upper Gulf Coast region, he said. Those fields represented more than a quarter of Texas’ rice acreage.
Texas rice farmers planted a little over 140,000 acres compared to 190,000 acres last season, he said.
Tarpley said rice planting got off to a slow start due to rain and cool spring temperatures. Growing conditions then turned dry and hot, which contributed to decent yields and lower-quality rice grains.
Texas rice exports could increase. (Photo by Shelley E. Huguley)
Drier conditions likely helped yields because they reduced disease pressure, according to Shane Zhou, Ph.D., AgriLife Research plant pathologist, Beaumont, Tarpley said. But the heat, especially high nighttime temperatures, negatively impacted the crop’s potential.
Tarpley estimates per-acre yields to be down around 10% due to the heat. Yield losses are based on the heat impacting plants in ways that reduced grain size, seed set and other factors. Grain quality can impact prices for producers because the grain can crack or break as it is milled. Broken grains equal lower prices for farmers.
“I’m hearing yields have been pretty good, not great,” he said. “I expect milling qualities are down. It’s a shame about the quality and the yields because the potential for record yields was there without the extreme heat.”
Tarpley said grains were still filling in many Texas rice fields, and the high night temperatures are continuing to impact milling quality.
He said his colleague Lina Bernaola, AgriLife Research entomologist, Beaumont, also suspects some late-season pest pressure from stink bugs, which can hurt grain quality, and stem borers, which can directly impact yields, to compound the losses to heat.
Texas rice exports could increase
Tarpley said Texas rice prices had not moved very much since India’s decision to ban rice exports created a volatility in the global rice market. India is the largest exporter of rice, and their decision will tighten global supplies, but that may create an opportunity for U.S. rice farmers.
Texas long grain milling white rice was $37 per hundredweight, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture July 31 report. Long grain milling white Texas rice was $30-$32.25 per hundredweight the same time last year.
“Prices for Texas and U.S. rice will become much more competitive as large portions of the export market increase as India takes rice out of the market,” he said. “I think this is a chance for the U.S. to recapture some market share due to competitive prices.”
India will continue to export aromatic rice like basmati but has halted exports of short-, medium- and long-grain rice that are in demand around the world for their different cooking properties.
David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, Bryan-College Station, said tightening of global rice supplies because of India’s ban should impact rice prices for Texas farmers, but also could have consequences for hundreds of millions of people.
Rice is a global staple food for around 3 billion people, Anderson said. The volatility of the market for rice and another staple, wheat, due to the Ukraine-Russia war could create food security problems.
“The situation in India is interesting,” he said. “You have a season where India’s rice crop maybe came in a little short and rice prices have been rising domestically. The ban is an attempt by the government to bring those prices back down. So, there is a political element to the ban that has global implications.”
Anderson said Texas farmers could see better pricing opportunities this season because of the volatility. Better prices are likely to lead more Texas farmers to try and bring in a second harvest, or ratoon crop.
Ratoon rice is produced from plant regrowth following the main crop harvest. Many producers break even with the main rice crop and find profits with the ratoon crop, Tarpley said.
Ratoon fields are typically cut to 8-to-10-inch stubble height during the main harvest, and new growth from the stubbles’ lower nodes typically produces decent secondary yields, he said. But delays to planting that led to delayed harvest could be a factor for the second crop.
Tarpley said producers typically start ratoon cropping by mid-August with an October harvest in mind. If the schedule pushes harvest into November, there could be issues because of harvest-delaying rains or cold temperatures.
Tarpley said Bernaola had also expressed concern that rice delphacid, a kind of planthopper that causes leaf drying, could be more widespread on the ratoon crop this season.
“Producers are a little behind, but they are harvesting like gangbusters right now,” he said. “They could be back on schedule in a week or two. Making a good ratoon crop will depend on the extent of pest pressure and high temperatures at the start and weather in the fall.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Brutally hot and dry conditions dominated the area. Soil moisture levels were very short to short. Counties were setting records for the most consecutive days over 100 degrees with no rain in the forecast. Pastures and rangelands were in very poor to fair condition with many looking dried out and turning yellow. The soil was visibly cracking in pastures. Tank water was evaporating quickly. Hay feeding and supplementation began for beef herds. Livestock were in good condition, and some cattle were being shipped off pastures. Hay producers needed another rain to make a cutting of hay. Sorghum harvest was well underway. Corn harvest was progressing rapidly with above-average yields reported. Yields for the earliest corn planted in March were excellent with some reports of more than 220 bushels per acre while those planted in April were 40-60 bushels per acre. Overall, the corn yields were above average. Cotton conditions declined somewhat with the intense heat and drought. Some spider mites were showing up but were not at treatable levels yet. Trees were shedding leaves.
Widespread drought conditions continued. All counties were experiencing the adverse effects of extreme heat and lack of moisture. Pasture grasses and crops without irrigation were showing signs of severe stress. Grasshoppers were posing a problem and consuming any green vegetation left. Wildfire dangers were worrying many producers as foliage dried down. Livestock were being fed with supplemental hay due to the lack of available grazing, and many producers were also facing low drinking water levels in stock ponds.
Hot and dry conditions prevailed. One advantage to the extreme dry weather was corn harvest continued without any delays. Heavy corn and sorghum yields were being reported. Cotton needed rain, and conditions were declining. Rice harvest was well underway. Hay harvesting was still in full swing; however, without more rain there may be only one cutting this season. Pastures and rangelands were drying up fast. Burn bans were in effect for many areas due to extremely dry conditions. Supplemental feeding of cattle was taking place in some areas. Livestock were doing well, and prices remained strong at auctions. Many ranchers were selling calves early to reduce stress on cows and pastures.
Drought conditions worsened. Subsoil conditions were short, while topsoil conditions ranged from very short to short. High temperatures and no rain have caused everything to dry up. Burn bans were posted in several areas. Polk County reported an increase in wildfire activity. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair. Pond and creek water levels continued to drop. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Grasshopper damage was reported.
Farmers were irrigating to keep their crops progressing. The rains in the early summer were a great start to the growing season and helped many farmers keep their irrigation systems off until the past two weeks. Cotton was in good condition across much of the district and receiving necessary heat units with a lot of fields starting to square. Corn was in fair to good condition with a few farmers reporting problems with worms. Sorghum was also starting to head out. All dryland crops needed rain quickly. Temperatures were hot with no relief in sight and not much of a cool down at night to allow crops to recoup for daytime temperatures. Cattle were in good condition with the improved native grass grazing from the early summer rains.
The district was very hot and dry with temperatures reaching 100-plus degrees daily. The soil moisture profile was good but could decline rapidly without rain. Most counties reported short to adequate subsoil and topsoil moisture. The wheat harvest was mostly complete, and yields were very low. Tillage and spraying continued behind the harvest. Corn and sorghum were stressed due to the hot, dry, windy weather. Pastures and rangelands were starting to go dormant. Livestock were in good condition with supplemental feeding occurring on a small scale. The overall condition of crops, pastures and rangelands were fair to good.
Pastures and rangeland were good to fair for most of the counties. Both subsoil and topsoil moisture were reported to be adequate to short for most of the counties. Temperatures remained in the triple digits over the past week and the region was in need of rain. Grass stands were severely declining. Pastures were becoming a little stressed due to excessive heat. A few counties started cutting corn for silage and it was yielding well. Overall, the production looked good but needed rain soon. Harvest is expected in August. Grasshopper populations were extremely high and increasing. A good amount of hay was harvested in a few counties. No major insect or disease outbreaks occurred during these times. Livestock conditions were looking good and continuing to improve.
Temperatures cooled somewhat but were still in the upper 90s with nighttime temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s. Lower temperatures were beneficial to crops, but the lack of rain doomed all dryland acres. Conditions continued to worsen for more producers who were forced to make drastic decisions. Crop adjusters were looking at cotton to decide if growers should keep it or take it out. Irrigated cotton continued to grow very slowly. Corn was finished and drying down, and sorghum was getting close. Melon harvest continued and yields increased with each picking. Pastures were completely bare in some areas, supplemental feeding continued. Most livestock were sold off after two years of drought conditions. Doves were moving into the district.
Hot and dry conditions continued with high temperatures around 100 degrees daily. No precipitation was reported, or in the forecast. Water levels in tanks and lakes were dropping. Severe drought conditions were giving way to extreme drought levels. Some producers were cutting and baling hay fields. Hay yields were lower this cutting, and more rain will be needed for another. Some other field cultivation was underway. Cotton fields were off to slow start but in mostly fair to good condition. Dryland cotton looked poor with some reports of fields lost to heat and drought. Livestock looked good, but some were losing body condition due to the intense heat. Most classes of cattle sold $3-$8 higher per hundredweight with good demand for heifers, pairs and bred cows. Most forages without irrigation were not growing. Insect problems continued, especially grasshoppers. Trees were dropping leaves. Corn harvest was expected to start soon. Most stock tanks were still in good shape, but pastures were in poor to fair condition and declining. Burn bans were put into effect for some counties.
Conditions were extremely dry and hot with temperatures over 100 degrees daily. Heat indexes continued to be around 110 degrees. One area reported some rainfall. Soil moisture levels were very short to adequate with most areas reporting very short to short conditions. No rain was in the forecast. Burn bans were being put into effect. Walnut caterpillars were prevalent. Corn and sorghum harvests continued, and cotton looked in fair to good condition. Rice harvest was underway and expected to ramp up. Some rice harvesting may be delayed based on planting dates. Some producers were hauling rice more than 100 miles due to the shutdown of a local drying facility. Pastures and rangelands needed rain, and forage availability was decreasing. Cattle prices were steady. Hay production continued but had slowed down. Bales were beginning to be moved and fed to livestock. Ponds and stock tank water levels were declining.
Daily temperatures were 100-plus degrees. The intense heat and lack of rain continued to negatively impact agriculture and rangelands. Grain sorghum and corn harvests began on the earlier planted fields, and most fields were mature. Corn harvest was nearing completion in some areas. Good-to-average sorghum yields were reported in some areas. Hay was available but expensive. Cotton was in rough shape. Warm-season pastures were going dormant. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline with extreme heat and dry conditions. Livestock and wildlife were starting to show stress.
Conditions were hot and dry. Soil conditions were very short. A few scattered showers delivered up to half an inch of rain. Sorghum fields reached maturity and harvest should begin soon. Corn harvest started. Some areas were wrapping up sorghum and corn harvests. Irrigated cotton fields were extremely stressed due to high temperatures. Some cotton was setting bolls. Peanut crops continued to progress and develop pods under irrigation, but some fields were struggling. Sesame fields looked good, and sunflowers were drying down. Fieldwork for strawberries continued but rain was needed for soil preparation. Irrigated watermelons and cantaloupes were in good condition. Pecan orchards continued to progress. Citrus and sugarcane were being irrigated, and vegetable farmers were preparing fields. Irrigated Bermuda grass fields were cut and baled. Rangeland and pasture conditions continued to decline and stress due to high temperatures. Grazing was limited, and producers were feeding livestock hay and cubes. Feed prices were high. Stock tanks were declining, and beef cattle producers were thinning herds. Cattle prices were high, and one report showed a slight decline in sale volumes. Wildlife were in fair condition but reliant on landowner water sources.
Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, AgriLife Today
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