A first-time rice grower in Pope County, Ark., has a new university record, and beginner’s luck had nothing to do with it. The secret of the farmer’s success may lie in large part to the use of poultry litter, according to Stewart Runsick, an Extension coordinator for the University of Arkansas Rice Research Verification Program (RRVP).

Arkansas River Valley Farms set an all-time program record for yields — a whopping 231 bushels an acre — and returned $500 an acre above costs. The Pope County program field was 40 acres leveled to a zero grade.

“The producer grew rice on 600 acres of 40-acre zero grade fields, and this was his first time to grow rice,” Runsick said. “He applied 3 to 4 tons an acre of chicken litter on the whole farm after leveling. I think the litter was a big contributor to his excellent yields. It was extremely lush and rank and a challenge to walk through in the season.”

The farmer seeded the field with RiceTec’s XP723 variety at a rate of 31 pounds an acre. He used Facet and Prowl herbicides to control hemp sesbania and Aim for control of smartweed and morning-glory.

“The flat, clay fields hold water like a bathtub. That, with a lot of rainfall and surface water irrigation, made this a very cheap field to water.”

Runsick advised the farmer and scouted his verification field weekly for problems. Phil Sims, Pope County Extension staff chair, also worked closely with the farmer.

Sims said he sometimes visited the farm twice a week and talked to the grower by telephone. He said the zero grade field meant “you could get that water on and off quickly and efficiently.”

He said the farmer had little disease pressure, a benefit of growing rice in the Arkansas River Valley.

Runsick said most of the difference in profitability among the program participants could be attributed to yields and irrigation costs.

The net return above total costs for one Lonoke County participating producer was $125 an acre, the lowest in the program. Profitability for another Lonoke program participant was $251.

The 2007 verification program was conducted on 12 commercial rice fields across the state.

Grain yields in the program averaged 189 bushels per acre, 29 bushels greater than the estimated statewide average.

Craighead County and Randolph County producers also enjoyed 200 bushel-plus yields — 219 in Craighead and 212 in Randolph.

Yields in the verification program typically are typically better than the state average yield. This is the norm over the 24-year history of the program. Input costs in RRVP are also often lower.

“This difference can be attributed, in part, to intensive management practices and use of U of A recommendations,” Runsick said.

Results of the 2007 verification program are online at www.uaex.edu (select Agriculture, Rice and Rice Research Verification Program).

e-mail: ljames@uaex.edu