Despite difficult weather and the climb of production costs, long grain rice acreage remains on the rise in Mississippi and nationwide.

Nathan Buehring, rice specialist, Mississippi State University Extension, detailed Mississippi rice production at the 2008 Agronomic Crops Field Day, Delta Research and Extension Center, Stoneville, Miss.

The 2008 Mississippi rice crop is estimated at 209,000 acres, a significant increase over 189,000 acres in 2007. Regionally, Arkansas has 1.25 million acres of 2008 long grain rice acreage, up from 1.18 million in 2007. Louisiana had 355,000 acres in 2007, with an increase to 390,000 in 2008. In addition, Missouri saw a jump from its 2007 total long grain rice acreage of 177,000 acres, to 198,000 acres in 2008.

Across the nation, long grain acreage rose from 2.05 million acres in 2007, to 2.24 million acres in 2008.

“The increase had a lot to do with the price of rice. When it got to be around $8, we had a great amount of interest (in Mississippi) in growing rice. However, that increase in acreage was somewhat limited by how much soybean acreage was booked, and what a farmer could do to rearrange. I even had some folks that were opting out of a soybean contract — paying out of that — to get in and plant rice,” Buehring said.

Late planting has been a particular concern for rice producers this year. The beginning of April marked a significantly dry three-week stretch, but was followed by excessively wet conditions, and the extensive rains delayed rice planting.

“This year we were right at 25 percent planted by April 15. Looking at last year, we were about 75 percent planted by the same time (April 15).

“That’s why we’re staying low in our yield this year, because we do have a lot of late acreage. We’ve got rice that’s started to head right now, and we’re got rice that’s started to flood right now. There’s not too many times you can say that in one breath.”

The later-planted acreage has endured another dry run, making weed control more difficult.

Buehring described the major influences on 2008 rice production — weather and input costs.

“Weather has been the biggest player this year. We went from dry to wet — now we’re dry again.”

Input costs remain on an upward march, and continue to erode profit margins. With diesel at over $4, urea at $800 per ton, and $1,200 DAP, Buehring said it is costing rice producers over $700 per acre, and sometimes more, to grow a crop.

“Right now you’ve got to make a crop to make a living. There is no room for failure anymore. Even at $8 rice — if you screwed up and lost 20 bushels, that’s $160 per acre that you just lost.”

So far in 2008, drift has not been severe. Glyphosate drift has been found in a few cases in 2008, but doesn’t compare with the drift troubles of 2005.

“A lot more producers are putting Classic or FirstRate in the tank with the Roundup, and it can somewhat confuse your syptomology on what you’re actually looking at. It can look almost like a Newpath, but it ultimately ends up being a glyphosate with an ALS-type herbicide such as Classic or FirstRate.”

Disease has been relatively light due to the dry conditions, and Buehring doesn’t expect sheath blight to be severe in 2008.

“I’ve been telling guys to keep an eye on it. Watch its progressions, and see how fast it’s moving. On our Clearfield lines, we’ll have to spray with a fungicide once, if not twice.”

e-mail: cbennett@farmpress.com