LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Last year, Arkansas rice producers had another bumper crop. “It was another record high in rice yield,” says Karen Moldenhauer, University of Arkansas plant breeder.

“We were surprised to find our average yield was 6,900 pounds (154 bushels) per acre. That’s quite a jump from 2003’s 147 bushels.”

The big variety winner was Wells, planted on about 40 percent of the state’s acreage. Cocodrie was on 15 percent. The Clearfield line — CL 161 — was on 13 percent.

“Many good varieties have made our yields jump,” Moldenhauer said at the Arkansas Rice Growers Association meeting in Brinkley, Ark. “One thing that helped is getting Clearfield varieties on red rice acreage.”

Banks

This year, three varieties are slated to be released as registered seed. The first is Banks, a LaGrue-type rice with better blast resistance.

“Banks contains the PIPA gene — in the past, we’ve considered that to be the blast resistance gene. This year, though, we found some blast races that under extreme conditions like sandy soils that can’t hold water (can affect Banks). The blast was a different race that hasn’t been very virulent before. But weather conditions were perfect for it. So I can’t say (Banks) is blast resistant, but it’s pretty close.”

For the last three years, Banks milling has been 66.73 with a 190-bushel average yield in variety trials. It heads in about 92 days and is moderately susceptible to sheath blight. The variety comes with a recommendation of 150 units of nitrogen.

“Bank’s height will be the thing that worries some producers because it has a LaGrue height. But it has a straw different from LaGrue and won’t lodge as easily.”

Cybonnet

“We registered our first semi-dwarf last year. Cybonnet, a long-grain, will be out as registered seed this spring.”

In trials over the last three years, Cybonnet had a 172-bushel yield average. “That’s the same yield we saw with Cheniere and Cocodrie. It also has a milling yield of a 69.73 — that’s extremely good. Cypress was the female parent for Cybonnet and it (retains its mother’s excellent) milling. It also has Cypress’ cooking quality and won’t gum up mills the way Cocodrie can.”

Cybonnet also contains the PITA gene, so it has the same kind of blast resistance as Banks, Ahrent and Drew. It is, however, very susceptible to sheath blight.

“A major advantage Cybonnet has over Cocodrie is it isn’t very susceptible to straighthead.”

The nitrogen rate for Cybonnet, like Banks, is 150 units.

Medark

Completing the list is Medark. “It was released after Kellogg’s said it would be acceptable. Now, they want more information, so we’ve sent them a lot of seed. Actually, they received a train-car load so they can check it out.”

Medark has a large kernel like Bengal, although it has a better disease package. Like Bengal, though, Medark is susceptible to panicle blight.

Medark milling yields over the last three years have averaged 67.72 with a 171-bushel yield. It heads in 89 days.

“For Medark, we’re recommending a nitrogen rate of 135 units. The reason for the lower rate is under high nitrogen conditions the variety tends to turn a little darker in color.”

In the pipeline

What’s new in the pipeline? “We have a line — without a name — that we’re looking at. We haven’t had a release committee meeting in Fayetteville on it yet.”

The variety contains a blast-resistance gene and has an average yield of 159 bushels per acre. That yield is lower than others but, at 80 days heading, “it’s 10 days earlier than Cocodrie — the same maturity as Maybelle. It yields 10 to 20 bushels better than Maybelle. It mills at 63.71, which is a lot better than Maybelle’s 61.70. It has a height of 41 inches and blast resistance comparable to Ahrent.”

Modenhauer says the line has good seedling vigor and cold tolerance and is “fairly tolerant” of stink bugs.

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com