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Rice crop is looking good, but price is low
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- April rain interrupted rice planting and will create two rice harvests a few weeks apart, but both crops appear to be doing very well near mid-season.
Joe Street, rice specialist at Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said most of the state's rice was planted in April, but rains delayed the rest until May.
"Some rice will be heading the middle of July, and some rice is just now emerging at the end of June," Street said. "We will have a wide range of harvest times this year. It might be a blessing, as everything won't be ready at the same time."
The state has about 270,000 acres of rice, up slightly from last year, which saw record high yields in some areas.
Intense summer heat is bad for rice when it is heading, or flowering and pollinating. Street said the early-planted rice may be able to head before the extreme heat that typically comes in August, and the later-planted rice might be timed to head after the worst of the heat has passed.
"When temperatures are above 95 degrees, we get some sterile or blank grains," Street said.
He said weeds have pressured farmers more than usual because herbicides were applied in the cool weather in May, and they don't work as well in cool temperatures.
Street said early indications are that stinkbugs will become an issue as the rice is heading. Disease pressure has been low, but the crop enters the disease cycle in July.
About 65 to 70 percent of the state's crop is planted in Cocodrie, a new variety that has surpassed Priscilla and Wells to become the most popular Mississippi variety.
"Of the three new varieties, Wells produces the most rice but is susceptible to lodging," Street said. "Priscilla has very good straw strength but is tougher to harvest since it stays green longer. Cocodrie has high yields, is easy to harvest and has good milling quality, so in about two years it became the most popular variety."
Tommy Baird, Sunflower County agent with MSU's Extension Service, said the county's crop has a fairly uniform stand and is progressing well. Nearly half had been given the mid-season fertilizer application by the end of June, and the rest will be treated in mid-July.
Sunflower County has about 40,000 acres of rice, of which 70 percent is planted in Cocodrie, 20 percent in Priscilla and 10 percent in Lemont. Baird said acreage is up about 15 percent from last year, partly because of last year's record yields.
"Farmers saw that good yields combined with the loan price would be good enough to make a profit," Baird said.
Prices are $3.45 a hundredweight, which is about 90 cents lower than last year's poor prices.
"It's about as low as it's been in many years," said J.D. Mathis, sales manager at Delta Rice Service in Cleveland. "If it weren't for the government payments, there's no way farmers could stay in business."