Arkansas rice yield expected to fall 5 to 10 percent

Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' 2015 rice harvest is about half completed and officials are forecasting a 5 to 10 percent decline in the yield.

Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he expects about 155 bushels per acre this year — down from a record of 168 bushels in 2014.

"It's been far from the yield we would like to see," Hardke said.

Spring planting was delayed by cold, wet weather through May, then a cold snap followed by extreme heat stressed the crop.

"If it's hot to you, it's hot to rice," Hardke said. "We like it warm but we don't like it scalding, and neither does rice."

Hardke said production in the northern half of the state was better than initially expected, but not for everyone, such as farmer and Arkansas Farm Bureau Board member Joe Christian, who planted 1,450 acres near Cash in Craighead County.

"It's terrible," Christian said.

Hybrid varieties that should yield 200 bushels per acre were yielding 185, while conventional varieties expected to produce 170 bushels per acre were yielding closer to 140, according to Christian.

The total number of acres planted in rice also declined, down from nearly 1.3 million in 2014 to about 1.1 million this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with prices being cited as one reason.

Scott Stiles, an extension economist, said May's rice futures prices were $4.40 per bushel, the lowest since July 2010, and that probably led farmers to devote fewer acres to rice.

Hardke said the harvest is expected to be complete by mid-October.