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Rice Looking Good Near Mid-Season
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- What little rice was planted on Mississippi farms this spring is looking good at the halfway point in the growing season.
According to the Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service, state farmers planted about 20 percent fewer rice acres, dropping the state total to about 260,000 acres, down from 323,000 acres harvested in 1999. Some rice experts expect that number to drop even further. Prices which were a low $5.25 in 1999 are even lower this year.
Joe Street, rice specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said the fact that cottons insurance program was better than rice's program impacted the number of rice acres planted.
"Many cotton farmers have a small rice acreage, and a lot of them opted for cotton on that land this year," Street said. " Other rice farmers shifted to soybeans because of the fewer inputs they require."
Rice is often planted in rotation with soybeans, as soybeans experience a yield increase when they follow rice. Farmers who practice this crop rotation typically plant despite market prices.
"Most of the hard core rice growers are maintaining that rotation scheme, but no new farmers are getting into the business this year," Street said.
Harry Howarth is a partner in Circle H Farms in Bolivar County near Cleveland. He planted 3,000 acres of rice this year, down just slightly from last year because of his crop rotation.
"Prices didn't cause us to cut back, but they are pretty discouraging," Howarth said.
Howarth said his rice got off to a good start, despite rains that delayed some planting a little this spring. Now he's hoping temperatures don't get too hot, especially in August when the rice starts heading.
"What we'd like to have now is moderate temperatures and clear skies," Howarth said.
Street said temperatures above 95 degrees when the rice is heading will reduce grain yield. Cooler weather in August is ideal for September rice harvests.
"Cooler night temperatures from August to September will favor the grain development," Street said.
So far the state's rice crop has had little disease or insect pressures. The primary insect pest is the rice water weevil, but that season past without serious problems. Stink bugs can become an issue at heading.
Street said disease problems are just beginning to show up, with sheath blight the most common problem. Farmers are beginning to scout for this disease to limit any problems they may have.
"There's been no serious outbreaks yet, but it's just now time for disease problems," Street said.