Extreme conditions had less impact than many anticipated Despite the persistent hot, dry conditions much of the Mid-South experienced this year, most Delta rice growers harvested an average to above-average rice crop.

"We learned that we don't know nearly as much as we think we do about the effect heat has on rice yields. Because of the extreme weather conditions this year, we expected to harvest low rice yields, but that wasn't the case," Extension rice specialist Joe Street told growers at the annual Delta Rice Meeting held Nov. 16 in Cleveland, Miss.

According to Street, Mississippi rice growers averaged 133 bushels of rice per acre on an estimated 227,000 acres planted in the state. That's in line with USDA's 2000 Mississippi yield estimate of 6,050 pounds of rice per acre.

As usual, a majority of Mississippi rice growers planted Lemont this year, with 60 percent of the state's acreage planted in that variety. Rice producers, however, have increased their acreage of Priscilla, which is gaining ground and now claims 27 percent of the state's total acreage. Cocodrie, the recent Louisiana variety release, is also gaining favor with the state growers.

The reason for the popularity of the newer varieties, including Louisiana's Cocodrie, Mississippi's Priscilla, and Arkansas' Wells, is evident in the results of the 2000 on-farm variety tests completed under the direction of Dwight Kanter, rice breeder at Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, Miss.

Over seven on-farm test locations in the Mississippi Delta, the variety Wells pulled in the highest yield at 196 bushels of rice per acre. Cocodrie took second place with an average yield of 190 bushels per acre. However, although Cocodrie yielded slightly less than Wells, it produced more whole grain milled rice in 2000 than all other commercial varieties and experimental lines included in the test. In fact, nine rice varieties produced "significantly" more whole grain milled rice in 2000 than the Wells variety.

"All of the varieties I tested this year showed an average 4.5-bushel increase over last year's yield results. Milling yields, though, were slightly lower than they were last year," Kanter says.

For those growers contemplating 2001 plantings, Kanter's variety trial results, averaged over the last three years, provide a clear picture of each variety's strengths and weaknesses. The variety snapshots are as follows:

- Lemont, on average, produces a yield of 159 bushels per acre with a milling yield of 57 percent head rice. The variety takes 121 days to reach maturity and is susceptible to sheath blight and false smut.

- Cocodrie, which has the highest whole-grain milling rice yield of all varieties included in the 2000 state tests, produces an average yield of 178 bushels of rice per acre. It has good milling characteristics, with an average milling yield of 56 percent head rice. The Louisiana variety offers good harvest efficiency and seedling vigor that is comparable to Cypress.

Cocodrie does require four days longer to reach maturity than Lemont. It has moderate straw strength and is susceptible to blast, sheath blight, kernel smut, and false smut.

- Another high-yielding rice variety is Priscilla. A Mississippi-bred variety, its three-year average yield is 173 bushels per acre. Reaching maturity after 121 days, the variety is moderately susceptible to sheath blight and is moderately resistant to straighthead disease. Priscilla's seedling vigor is similar to Lemont

Priscilla's weaknesses are its milling yields, which average two percentage points less than Lemont, and its lower level of harvest efficiency. According to Kanter, the variety is better harvested with a stripper header, and desiccation may also aid in harvest efficiency. The variety is susceptible to the diseases, kernel smut and false smut.

- Wells variety rice, which requires 126 days to reach maturity, has a three-year average test yield of 183 bushels per acre. The variety's high-yield potential, however, is dampened by its erratic milling yields. "It does not mill well on a consistent basis," says Kanter.

In addition to an average milling yield of 48 percent head rice, Wells is susceptible or moderately susceptible to four diseases.

- A very early-maturing rice variety, Jefferson is easy to harvest and offers good straw strength. However, it generally yields about 112 bushels per acre - about nine bushels per acre less than Lemont. The Texas variety's milling yield is also, on average, about three percentage points less than Lemont.

Jefferson requires a higher seeding rate at planting and is moderately susceptible to susceptible to blast, kernel smut, and sheath blight.