One of the first to grow Jefferson in their area of Arkansas, farmer Mike Bryant and seed dealer Heath Moncrief say the variety taught them a lesson about patience. Once the hot variety, Jefferson's popularity took a hit following the 1996 growing season. It is only now recovering.
“Jefferson fooled us. It started great, and then the milling issue came up,” says Bryant, who farms near Noble Lake, Ark.
A large cooperative basically put the end to Jefferson's original popularity, says Moncrief. “They saw something in the variety they didn't like. We still aren't sure about the exact reason.”
Jefferson has a large grain. There's speculation that such a grain didn't mill as well as other varieties. That's just an educated guess, says Bryant.
“Believe me, there are plenty of theories floating around the farming community about the original demise of Jefferson. At lower harvest moisture, Jefferson tends not to have a milling yield that is normally seen in average varieties.
“Being such a big grain, it tended to crack under the pressures smaller grains have no problem going through,” says Moncrief.
When looking at milling yield, there's one number for whole grains (head rice) and a number for the total weight milled. The excess is chaff.
“So maybe you'd have a 60/70 or a 60/68. What was happening was that the total number was fine but the head rice number was below what was needed. Normally, comparisons we'd make would be with Cypress,” says Robert Weatherton, Texas A&M foundation rice seed manager.
Cypress has milling integrity, allowing it to be harvested at lower moistures. Jefferson doesn't. Farmers harvesting Jefferson as if it were Cypress came out on the losing end.
But here's where patience paid off. Better producers figured out how to grow Jefferson.
They began harvesting the variety at higher moisture and the milling results “were wonderful. That's how Jefferson bounced back to popularity,” says Weatherton.