Arkansas will keep its crown in 2007 as the nation's leading rice grower by producing an estimated 95.4 million hundredweight of rice. That's about 48 percent of the nation's total rice output, said Bobby Coats, agricultural policy analysis for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

California is the second-largest rice producing state followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

Along the way, Arkansas farmers managed to set a new statewide average yield record. The Arkansas Agricultural Statistics Service estimates Arkansas rice producers harvested a statewide average of 7,200 pounds (160 bushels) per acre.

“If that holds true, Arkansas producers will exceed their previous (2004) record yield by 220 pounds, or 4.9 bushels, per acre,” Coats said. “Arkansas rice producers will harvest an estimated 1.33 million acres of rice, about 75,000 fewer acres than in 2006.”

Records were also set in the university's Rice Research Verification Program, according to Stewart Runsick, program coordinator for the extension service.

“We set a record in the 24-year history of the verification program with an average of 189 bushels,” Runsick said. “The previous high was 172.

“We continue to be about 20 bushels or so better than the state average.”

Runsick attributed the high verification yield average to participating growers across the state using intensive management practices and following UA research-based extension recommendations. “Every year, we get a little better,” Runsick said, “but this year was exceptional.”

As impressive as 189 bushels is, a verification farm in Pope County harvested 231 bushels an acre, a program individual record.