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Rice Update for the week of May 7, 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 interviews and submissions of rice experts in Arkansas and the Mid-South.

Weather:  The forecast in eastern Arkansas for the next 10 days is for cooler weather with highs in 70s and 80s, lows in the upper 50s to mid-60s and limited chance of scattered storms and precipitation.  After today’s rainfall, this should give another opportunity for field work and remaining planting where rainfall was adequate to bring back soil moisture.


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

Many areas received badly needed rain as we had almost waited too late to flush some fields during the recent dry weather pattern.  While a small percentage of rice was fertilized and flooded this past week, much more will be in the next 10 days to 3 weeks.  By next week, a large area is likely to be flooded up, so later this week will be very busy putting out fertilizer.  Some areas today received up to 4 inches, although many were less than 1 inch as well.  Further southeast, little rain was received and this area could still use a good, steady rain.  In general, the rice crop continues to look very promising, and we are essentially through planting.

High fertilizer prices are encouraging more sales of unproven types of nitrogen and other fertilizers, that is, “snake-oils”.  Make sure that fertilizers have a proven and multi-source research record before buying.

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

We are thankful for the rains today.  Many rice fields are now at pre-flood, and we need to control the weeds prior to flood, not flood up on a bunch of actively growing weeds.

Now is the time to start on levee weed control.  Get ahead of the game and spray levees while weeds are small, especially if pigweed is an issue on levees.  Save problems later.

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

In general, we seem to have brought the grape colaspis under control in Arkansas with the use of the new seed treatments.  We have had few reports of this insect in our traditional problem areas.

We are still seeing chinch bugs in certain areas and recommend continued vigilance, especially around clay fields and field edges.  These insects are at a high population currently and can still do some damage, so we need to stay on alert.

Fall armyworms are in emerging soybean fields and will likely get into young rice fields if things continue.  We need to stay alert for worms in the crops as our bollworm moth traps are recording all-time high numbers for this time of year.  Moth flights are too early with the warm winter, and we may have the worst worm situation ever for Arkansas crops.  Stay alert.

Dr. Trent Roberts, Assistant Professor and Soil Scientist and Dr. Nathan Slaton, Professor and Soil Scientist, UA Division of Agriculture

Keep a watchful eye; when zinc deficiency strikes – it hits hard and fast!

Anyone who has experienced zinc (Zn) deficiency in their rice fields can tell you that it is not something you will soon forget. One day your rice will look great, and two days after flooding you think it’s the end of the world. For the well-trained eye, spotting Zn deficiency prior to flood might be easy, but for most people it has to be something you are really looking for in order to recognize. Zinc deficiency symptoms before flooding may be very subtle until establishment of a permanent flood, and when things go bad they accelerate quickly. The following symptoms can often be used to identify Zn deficiency pre and post flood, but the symptoms will often worsen following the establishment of a permanent flood.

Zinc deficiency in rice

Fig. 1. Common Zn deficiency symptoms. Notice bronzing of leaves and chlorotic symptoms, even on new leaf growth.












Symptoms of Zn deficiency include:

  • Stacking of leaf sheaths or joints
    • (easiest pre-flood identification and also post-flood symptom)
  • Bronzing of oldest leaves (pre and post-flood symptom)
  • Basal leaf chlorosis- the portion of the leaf nearest the stem becomes light green
    • (pre and post flood symptom)
  • Leaves float on water following establishment of a flood
    • (post flood symptom, not as reliable and usually occurs in deep flood)
  • Lack of vigorous growth following pre-flood N application and reduced tillering
  • Symptoms are usually worst on the deep water side of the levee and area aggravated by cold water and cool air temperatures
  • Rice death

Zinc deficiency can often be confused with phosphorous (P) deficiency or salinity injury. Problems associated with Zn deficiency are normally seen after flushing or flooding, while salinity problems usually occur when the soil is not saturated. Please keep in mind that Zn deficiency and salt injury can occur in the same field, but the symptoms will most often present themselves at different times. Although P deficiency will also occur after flooding, the leaves will generally not exhibit basal chlorosis and usually remain erect (P deficient rice leaves do not float on the water). In both P and Zn deficiencies lack of leafiness and lack of tillering can occur, so look for basal leaf chlorosis to help differentiate between these two nutrient deficiencies. For producers who notice Zn deficiency within 72 hours following flood a hard decision has to be made – to drain or not to drain. In cases of severe Zn deficiency, draining the field is the only way to save the rice crop. Immediately following identification of Zn deficiency, follow these steps to salvage rice and remember that it can take as long as 14 days for the visual recovery to occur.

Steps to salvage rice from Zn deficiency

  • Drain the field and allow the soil to dry – application of zinc products into the floodwater                        will not be effective.
  • When new root and shoot growth occurs, apply either 1 lb of actual zinc as a zinc-EDTA per acre or 2 to2.5 lb of actual zinc if available in an organic complex.
  • Apply 100 lbs of ammonium sulfate, and apply a shallow flood.

Even fields that require the above mentioned salvage treatment can achieve respectable yields and reach as high as 90% of the yield potential.  Please keep in mind that the steps required to salvage rice from Zn deficiency will often add 2-3 weeks to the growing season and that draining the field may require the addition of more N fertilizer, as a significant amount of the pre-flood N may be lost due to draining, drying and re-flooding the soil. Although rice can be salvaged from Zn deficiency, a producer’s best bet is to prevent it through soil testing and pre-plant or pre-flood Zn applications. In all cases, please contact your local county agent or refer to the MP 192 for more information regarding the identification, prevention and correction of zinc deficiencies in rice.

Yeshi Wamishe, Assistant Professor and Rice Pathologist, Rice Research and Extension Center:

As we calculate pre-flood nitrogen rates later this week and next, it is a good time to remember that high pre-flood nitrogen rates can increase the potential for smut and sheath blight problems later.  Using the correct pre-flood nitrogen rate can pay off later with less disease to worry about.

Scott Stiles, Extension Economist, Risk Management:

The focal point, as you know, is the dry conditions.  Fortunately, many areas received some much-needed rain today.   I am hearing from consultants that poor and partial stands are prevalent, and repeated flushing is being required just to get the rice started.  This is tempering the enthusiasm for this year’s crop that initially came with early planting.  Time will tell if these weak stands will impact yields and quality.

Price-wise, growers follow the September futures contract as a proxy for 2012 crop prices.  Prices are volatile today in all commodities.  It appeared that buying would kick in last week when prices dipped to $15.00.   Prices end the week at $15.41—off about 5 cents from the previous week.  The basis is being reported at $1.50 to $1.70 per cwt. under September futures for fall delivery.

On the input side, I haven’t heard of a strong break lower in urea.  However, crude oil and heating oil futures are now trading at the lowest levels since Jan/February of this year–some relief on diesel prices soon.

It’s difficult to see a lot of downside in new crop rice futures, given the lingering questions about actual rice acreage and now the concerns that partial stands could have on yield.  All of this uncertainty is very supportive for prices.  Markets trade fear first and fact second.


There will be a strong incentive to double crop soybeans this year.  One reason will be the early wheat harvest and the fact growers will be planting in May/early June—or a full month ahead of normal double crop planting.  The logical assumption is higher yields assuming we don’t fall back into an extended hot/dry pattern.

The other incentive is price.  Soybean prices have strong fundamental price support that stems from tight U.S. supplies and a disappointing S. American harvest–shift more export demand to the U.S.

These soybean bids were offered today for fall delivery to the Mississippi river:

Sep 1-15:          $13.92                    basis +39 cents over November futures

Sep:                   $13.78                    +25 cents

Oct:                   $13.68                    +15 cents

The positive basis is a true indication of tight supplies and strong demand.

Northeast Arkansas – Johnny Wheetley, Consultant:

Rain was good news for many, although a lot of growers had just completed flushing.  This often seems the natural order of events in farming.  Signal grass was getting pretty ambitious in some fields so when the water goes off from this rain, we should have a good chance to bring this under control.  Rice has really been jumping with the warm temperatures and flushing, and this rain should jump it some more.  Moisture should also allow us to apply the second shot of Newpath to Clearfield rice fields under more ideal conditions, so the rain should really help in that regard as it was getting too dry for maximum herbicide effectiveness in these systems.  The crop is still pretty uneven, but after fertilizing and flooding the next couple of weeks, it will hopefully even up a lot.

Jason McGee, Rice Consultant, Cross and Poinsett Counties:

Fields look a lot better here.  We plan to fertilize and flood up over the next 10 days and expect more than 50% of our fields to be flooded by next week.

Ron Baker, County Extension Agent, Clay County:

Everybody has been flushing so we received ½ – 4 inches of rain today, which will help overall.  Rains will help us start planting beans again this week.  In this area, only very few will be flooding up in the next 10 days with most in about 2-3 weeks.

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

Rice really responded to flushing last week, and this rain should continue to help.  We are still trying to catch up and spray for weed control in some areas but overall, things look good.  We should be fertilizing and flooding up over the next couple of weeks, although urea prices have dampened enthusiasm for this part of rice production currently.

Southeast Arkansas – Gus Wilson and Wes Kirkpatrick, County Extension Agents:

We did not get much rain, if any, for the most part, so another 1-2 inches would be welcome.  Lots of flushing is still occurring, but the rice crop generally looks good.  Some growers will be flooding up in the next few days.  We had some herbicide injury on lighter soil,s but the rice is coming back now.  A few farmers leveled a bit more ground during the dry spell and are planting rice on these fields the first year or two.

Please direct questions and concerns to Dr. Rick Cartwright, who can be contacted at .

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