Late winter rains unlikely to impact 2016 rice acreage
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
March 11, 2016
- Rice acreage projected to increase 20 percent over 2015
- Late winter rains may affect planting dates, but not overall acreage
- Experts caution against exceeding 1.6 million acres for state
LITTLE ROCK — Despite receiving more than a foot of rain in four days in some portions of the state, the steady downpour isn’t likely to impact an overall increase 2016 rice acreage, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture experts said this week.
Jarrod Hardke, rice agronomist with the Division of Agriculture, said grower surveys indicate Arkansas farmers will be planting between 1.5 and 1.6 million acres of rice this year, a 20 percent jump from 2015. And although heavy rains across the state — especially pronounced in the southeastern third of Arkansas — could potentially push planting dates back into early April, they’re not likely going to impact growers’ long-range plans, he said.
“Obviously, what happens before planting determines a lot,” Hardke said. “Anywhere there are heavier clay soils are going to take this a lot harder. But lighter soils in the north, where they’re getting less rain, may end up in a better situation.
“But nothing currently suggests we’ll deviate from our current acreage projection,” he said. “Even as we reach eventual yield declines that happen as planting is pushed to late April or early May, when you look at the current price situation in rice, compared with other commodities, it still ‘pencils out’ better.”
Hardke said some growers will likely plant slightly more rice than they typically do, using acreage otherwise set aside for soybeans, due to commodity market considerations.
In the year’s first edition of the Arkansas Rice Update, published Feb. 26, Hardke urged growers not to push the state’s rice acreage beyond 1.6 million.
“It’s largely a supply-and-demand issue,” Hardke said. “Rice acres have increased in all of the rice producing states within the United States. High acreage throughout the mid-south can be its own problem, but imagine combining that with a really high yield.”
In addition to depressing commodity prices, Hardke warned that once Arkansas growers pass the 1.6 million acre mark, they’re left to plant rice in increasingly poorly suited areas.
“There are a lot of agronomic reasons, including soil type and water availability, why rice shouldn’t be planted in various places,” Hardke said. “And when we get past that 1.6 mark, that’s really what’s left. We get into ground that has traditionally not been in rice production for good reason.”
In 2010, Arkansas growers planted nearly 1.8 million acres of rice, often to disastrous ends. Bacterial panicle blight wiped out yields, and high temperatures made water management in atypical rice acres even more difficult.
“Some argue that we’re still recovering from the poor quality year that was 2010,” Hardke said. “Some of it was going to happen, no matter what — the heat and some of the disease. But when you have that kind of record acreage, and you’re expanding acreage into new areas, it makes it that much worse.”
Hardke said he was also concerned that medium grain rice acreage may also to increase to as much as 300,000 acres, despite a lack of contracts in 2015.
“In 2014, we had 215,000 acres of medium grain rice,” Hardke said. “In 2015, there were no contracts being offered for medium grain, and it still went up to 240,000 acres. When there are contracts being offered and price guarantees, that’s usually a good driver to ensure we’re planting enough medium grain. But when growers plant that in spite of there being no contracts, they’re taking a gamble.”
Hardke said that if medium grain plantings increase this year in keeping with overall rice acreage increases, the market could be flooded.
“We would get into the 280,000-300,000 acre range, which we absolutely do not need,” Hardke said. “I want to be wrong about that.”
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service