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Arkansas rice crop update for the week of April 16, 2012
Author: Rick Cartwright, Associate Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources-Cooperative Extension Service

The Rice Update is a weekly summary of what’s happening and what to look for in rice production, based on the commentary of rice experts in Arkansas and the Mid-South.

Dr. Chuck Wilson, Director of the Rice Research and Extension Center and Rice Agronomist, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture:

Statewide, about 75% of the projected 1.1 million acres of rice in Arkansas have been planted.  The last couple of weeks, emergence had been delayed by dry conditions and stand emergence had become skippy in some fields, but the 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rain most areas received last night (April 15) should help.  Planted rice should come up now with stands evening, and once the soil dries enough again, the rest of the crop can be planted.   It will also help activate Command and other herbicides applied earlier and kill some of the emerged vegetation out there.  Some fields will have different emergence dates as a result of the dry period after planting.  The rule of thumb is to always manage uneven stands based on the majority of the field.

While recent cool conditions have slowed emergence and development a bit, the Arkansas rice crop is off to a very early and promising start, perhaps the best potential in years.

Urea – This is currently a “four-letter” word with growers. With prices ranging from $650 – $830 per ton retail in the Arkansas Delta region, the cost of urea is obviously a major issue for producers.  Although there have not been any substantial shortages reported, some areas have had delays in delivery.  The exact cause of the jump in urea prices has not been well explained by industry, but the increase in projected corn acreage in the U.S. and the very early planting season (which has pushed field demand in the South earlier than normal) have been cited as part of the reason.  Natural gas price is obviously not the reason, since it is still low, historically speaking.  Most urea is apparently now made off-shore so this is another example of how well dependence on an imported resource is a really good idea (not).

Most experts do feel that the urea situation will straighten out about May, and in the meantime, where possible, growers are switching to soybean planting intentions and away from corn and rice, although now it is too late in much of the Mid-South to change.

Varieties – Because of very early planting conditions and high input costs in Arkansas, more Clearfield and non-Clearfield “pure line” or “conventional” rice varieties have been planted than expected.  Statewide, reports are that CL151, CL111, Wells, Francis, CL142AR, CL152 and RoyJ have been favored to date.  Taggart, Cocodrie and Cheniere have been spot planted also.  Hybrid rice has been widely planted as well with CL XL745, 753 and 754 reported for the most part.

  • Rick Cartwright shares his wisdom for your consideration. “If you want to produce lots of kernel smut and false smut, be sure to over-fertilize with nitrogen at the preflood growth stage.  This is especially true for CL151, RoyJ and Francis but works well with most varieties and hybrids.”

Dr. Trent Roberts, Assistant Professor and leader of the N-ST*R Program:

N-ST*R  – The nitrogen soil test for rice discovered by University of Arkansas Division scientists is now being implemented and tested across the Mid-South on silt loam soils.  It predicts the amount of soil N available to the rice crop and permits the grower to adjust total nitrogen fertilizer applied to better fit the needs for a particular field.  Variety also has a lot to do with nitrogen rate, and a recent publication outlining recommended N rates for different rice varieties is available here.

Approximately 2500 N-ST*R soil samples had been received by April 16, 2012 and about 2000 analyzed.  Of those analyzed, about 50% of the fields required less nitrogen than was typically applied.  The balances were close to what was typically applied.  However, these preliminary results show the potential value of this new test, especially given current urea prices of $700 – $800 per ton, in providing growers the information needed to more accurately apply the correct amount of nitrogen fertilizer.  In addition, it is predicted that fields using the right amount of nitrogen, especially preflood, will have fewer disease problems like the smuts, sheath blight and possibly bacterial panicle blight and blast.

  • No further N-ST*R samples will be accepted after April 30, 2012 for recommendations this spring, as there will not be enough time to process samples and implement the results into production.

Urea prices have made all forms of nitrogen management critical.  Where needed, Agrotain and Arborite AG are proven urease inhibitors (both contain NBPT) that stabilize urea fertilizer.  Fields where flooding cannot be achieved in 5-7 days or less to “seal” pre-flood applications of urea are prime candidates for use of these inhibitors.

Dr. Bob Scott, Professor and UA Division of Agriculture Extension Weed Scientist:

We have an early start and this means it is critical to keep fields clean and under control until flooding.  The dry spell complicated matters in Arkansas, especially for pre-emergence applications of Command.  If not activated, Command residual weed control will decrease accordingly.  In other words, if Command was applied 3 weeks ago and not activated by flushing or rainfall, it is mostly gone and additional herbicide options will need to be considered.  Refer to our MP44 publication for details.  The point is, don’t assume and check your early-planted fields and respond accordingly – NOW.

Sprangletop is an increasing problem in the state and Command followed by Prowl has been consistently used on these fields, but this weed continues to “slip by” some programs.  This is one that we need to stay on top of, as evidenced in our recent survey by Jason Norsworthy of rice weed problems, which showed sprangletop had risen to number two in the state due to difficulties in consistent control.

Nutsedges are a coming problem in the herbicide resistance world.  Certain populations now appear to be developing resistance to ALS herbicides and we need to stay ahead of this development.  County agents, consultants and growers are urged to report any nutsedge populations that are hard to kill with conventional herbicide technology.

Currently, we seem to be staying ahead of potential development of herbicide-resistant barnyardgrass due to consistent and effective use of Command in the Clearfield systems as a supplement to Newpath, but we need to keep working on this, because resistant barnyardgrass is not in anybody’s interest.

Dr. Gus Lorenz, Professor and Extension Entomologist for the UA Division of Agriculture:

The big story remains armyworms in emerging rice and corn fields.  (See my article: Armyworms Moving Into Rice.)  These fast-moving and voracious feeders can destroy plant stands in areas before you realize it so you must stay alert and watch fields daily.  Currently, they are mostly associated with nearby early-maturing wheat fields and fields recently “burned down” by herbicides to prepare for planting, but scout all fields as they move more quickly than you realize.

We have been monitoring the stinkbug population in the early-maturing wheat fields this year.  Population of these insects was high, but recently they moved out of wheat and “disappeared” for the time being.  We do not know where they go or their potential for problems later at this point, but it makes us uncomfortable for the rest of the growing season.

Although it is too early to assess, recent cool conditions and emerging rice favor grape colaspis activity since the young rice plants cannot grow fast enough to stave off feeding efforts of the grubs in the soil.  It is a good thing that an estimated 75%-80% of our rice seed was treated this year with an effective insecticide to prevent what could be a big problem this year.  If all works out, we should not have too much damage from this historically important pest, but we don’t need to let our guard down (remember the springs after we lost Icon insecticide?).

Scott Stiles, Extension Economist – UA Division of Agriculture:

The 800 lb gorilla in the room continues to be urea price and uncertainty about input costs for rice and corn.  While urea is available, it is expensive, varying up to $800 plus per ton in the region.  This certainly encourages soybean production, given continued soybean prices.  It is hoped that the urea situation will correct somewhat in May as additional supplies arrive and competition increases.

Below is a chart (Fig.1) that shows urea and corn futures prices since July 2011.  Gulf urea prices (wholesale prices listed are about 20% under typical local retail prices in Arkansas) hit their 2011 highs last September (coincides well with the top in the grain markets) and hit bottom on Dec. 23 at $357/ton.  Prices are trading about $670/ton today, the highest since 2008.  We believe the recent “urea panic” is subsiding to a degree, and while some local shortages may be apparent for the balance of April, it appears prices are headed lower in May as more imports show up in the pipeline.

Urea Prices

Fig. 1

Northeast Arkansas – Andy Vangilder, Ron Baker and Herb Ginn, County Extension Agents:

An estimated 70-85% of rice acreage has been planted as far north as Clay County (Missouri border area) and quite a lot has emerged or is emerging.  The recent rain will help even out stands and keep the crop developing, but so far it looks to have very good potential.  The rain will also allow early soybean planting, which had stalled out with the dry conditions the last couple of weeks.  In this area, quite a lot of hybrid rice including CL XL 745, 753 and 754 has been planted, but also pure line rice varieties CL 111, CL 151, some CL 152 and lesser amounts of Wells, CL 142 AR and RoyJ have been reported.  We are off to a good start in NE Arkansas if we can keep the crop clean of weeds until flooding, and if we can control urea input costs by using the right amount early.  Urea costs as high as $830 per ton have been noted in the region, but farmers are hoping this will decrease over time, and fortunatley, many did book their needs early at a lower price.

Jason McGee, Rice Consultant, Cross and Poinsett Counties:

Most of the rice in this area has been planted.  Some stands are “skippy”, but the April 15 rain should help even things out a bit.  We received up to 1.5 inches in the area.  We have grass in some fields and have heard reports of some areas with lots of grass where flushing could not be completed to activate Command applications.   In these regions, other herbicide programs will be used to keep the crop clean until flooding, at extra expense.  Medium grain planting seems to be down, primarily Jupiter (CL 261 has not been reported), while the long grain varieties in this area include CL151, CL111, hybrids, Wells, Francis, RoyJ and smaller plantings of CL 142AR.  Clearfield acres seem to be down a little in this region as Wells, Francis and RoyJ acres increase due to lower seed and other input costs for production.

East-Central Arkansas – Brent Griffin, County Extension Agent:

The Grand Prairie region appears to be 90% planted and in good shape except for skippy stands where dry soil conditions occurred the past couple of weeks.  Rain over the weekend should help with emergence and evening the stands and will activate recently applied herbicides to keep things clean.  However, earlier planted fields where growers were not able to flush and activate herbicides mean more spraying and costs later to keep the crop clean until flooding.  We are watching for armyworms at present with scattered reports.  This area appears to have the same acreage of rice as last year since bottoms that were flooded in 2011 are coming back into rice in 2012.  Varieties include CL151, CL111, small acreage of CL142AR; RoyJ, Taggart, Wells and the hybrids have all been noted as being planted in the region.  Hybrids will dominate total acreage and medium-grain acreage will be about 10%.  Urea could be found retail as low as $685 per ton in the region and fertilizer supply appeared adequate.

Southeast Arkansas – Gus Wilson, County Extension Agent:

Rice planting intentions are down compared to last year in the area, but 75% of what will be planted this year has been planted and is emerged or emerging.  Soybean acreage will increase substantially in this region of the state.  We have cotton emerged and the corn looks beautiful so far, thanks to a very unusual and early spring.  We are watching for armyworms with spotty reports and have had some very erratic and minor hail damage to wheat and emerging corn in spots.  This area is a month ahead, like much of Eastern Arkansas, on planting and crop development.  Urea in the area has been about $700 a ton and dry urea is available and in adequate supply to date.

Louisiana – John Saichuk, Professor Extension Rice Agronomist – LSU AgCenter:

Rice planting is finally complete in south Louisiana and probably 60% or more complete in the NE Corner of the state.  We appear to have fewer acres planted than forecast recently, perhaps even 10% less.  Weekly showers kept most growers out of the field during our normal planting window so our crop is about a month behind last year, and later planted rice in our state can be problematic during the summer.  Urea supply has been spotty to date in the region, and we hope this corrects itself before too long.  Planted varieties here include CL152 (where seed is available), CL151, CL111, and we planted quite a bit of Cheniere in water seeded systems to save money.  CL131 is on the decrease, as are the hybrids this year in our area.  In NE Louisiana, some CL 142AR and CL 162 have been reported planted.

We have had lots of duck, coot and teal feeding problems on emerging rice – pulling up the young plants to remove the attached seed.  AV-1011, the bird repellent, has been reported to be helping in areas where it is permitted, and “popguns” seem to help on the ducks but not much on blackbirds.

Mississippi – Nathan Buehring, Associate Extension Professor – Mississippi State University Extension Service:

Rain was received on April 16.  The forecasted rice acreage is only about 100,000 acres, the lowest total since the 1970s.  We are probably 85% planted and about 50% emerged, mostly on the traditional rice soils.  We have planted a lot of hybrids along with CL 151, CL 111, Cocodrie and Rex.  Currently, our main issue will be keeping this early crop clean until flooding.  Urea appears to be available, but the price is prohibitive for some growers planting rice and corn, and some would like to switch to soybeans where possible.

Texas – Garry McCauley, Professor – Texas AgriLife Research and Extension:

We are projecting about 120,000 planted acres this year, down from 180,000 last year.  One river basin has been affected by irrigation water shortage which resulted in the acreage decrease.  In some areas, growers have been able to drill additional wells and continue rice production.  In the north and western rice area, at least 90% of the intended acreage has been planted.  Closer to the coast, it has been wet and only about 50% has been planted, and in the eastern part of the Texas rice belt, virtually none has been planted due to wet conditions.  Overall, we are 3-4 weeks behind due to untimely rains during February and March.  In general, emergence has been good where planted, although some acreage was flooded after emergence by storms, and young plants were “stretched” when the fields drained.  Even with the late start, we are hopeful for a good crop this year, albeit on limited acreage.

Please address questions and concerns about the information given here to Dr. Rick Cartwright, who can be contacted at .

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