Arkansas: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Bright green rice plants with small white blossoms, pollination stage
Pollination stage
Aug 23, 2018
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Harvest preparations are underway across Arkansas.  Combines, headers, and grain carts are in the shed for maintenance, truck drivers are being hired, and water is being drained off the fields.

Barring any more rain, Steve Orlicek, who farms in Stuttgart, expects to start harvesting his rice next week.  “Our fields that were planted in April should be ready to harvest in 7-10 days and our fields planted in mid-May should be ready to harvest about 10 days behind that.”  April-planted fields are currently in the soft dough stage and are being dried down while the May-planted fields are in the pollination stage and still have a flood.

The southeast part of the state received more than four inches of rain over the past week.  Most of Orlicek’s fields are drying down on their own but he is pumping water off of a few fields close to Bayou Meto where the water is too high to drain on its own.

“The crop itself looks better than I expected,” said Orlicek.  “During the growing season, a lot of our fields were uneven due to severe grass pressure but after an extra spraying, most of the grass has died off and the rice is looking very uniform now.  It’ll be interesting to see if our yields are as good as they appear to be.”

Dr. Jarrod Hardke, rice extension agronomist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, thinks rice yields could be better than expected despite the drastic weather conditions farmers have battled this year.  “Early yield reports, while very limited, are extremely promising with numbers similar to and above those seen last year when the state produced a near-record crop.  This looks to be a very strong rice crop, which is even more impressive for the obstacles it was forced to overcome throughout the season.  In the end, there is no replacement for favorable weather and growing conditions.”

Parts of northeast Arkansas aren’t on the same schedule.  Dean Wall, a producer in Paragould, received six inches of rain on the fields by his shop last week, but fields that are only 10 miles north of the shop had 10 inches of rain dumped on them.  “If this rain event hadn’t happened, a few producers in this area may have started harvesting next week.  If the weather holds, the fields with six inches of rain may be dry enough to start harvesting in two or three weeks.”

The verdict is still out on the fields that received 10 inches of rain.  The water level there is dropping but at a slow pace.  Many of these fields drain into the Cache River which is also high and therefore slowing the drainage process.  In one low field, the water was seven inches above full flood level.

Other pressures for producers include a severe grass, red rice, and stink bug presence.  Like those in the southeast with similar troubles, it was hit or miss when it came to controlling the nuisances.  

Overall, many producers are saying that yields look promising but won’t know for sure until they can get a combine in the fields.  Until then, let’s pray that the good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise!