If everything were to go wrong in 2002 and a myriad of insects populated your disease infested rice fields, which variety would offer you the highest net return on your production investment?

An economic study of Delta rice production, which was released at the Delta Area Rice Meeting in Cleveland, Miss., puts Wells at the top of the heap. Despite that fact, growers across the state are expected to pick Cocodrie as their number one rice variety again in 2002.

What the study discovered is that Lemont is the cheapest rice variety to produce. It is also, unfortunately, the lowest-yielding variety.

The economic study took three-year yield averages and milling yield data and factored in a “worst-case” production scenario to obtain a net profit or loss for each variety. Coordinating the study were Mississippi Extension rice specialist Joe Street and agricultural economist Steve Martin with the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, Miss.

“We included everything we could figure that you are going to spend in a worst-case scenario, such as labor, extra hauling for extra yield, any and all possible fungicide applications, a stinkbug treatment and a water weevil treatment,” said Joe Street, Mississippi Extension rice specialist.

What wasn't included in the production cost estimates was any yield or harvesting efficiency loss due to lodging.

The fungicide applications figured into the study's formula varied from variety to variety, depending upon resistance factors. For example, it was assumed the variety Cocodrie would require one application to control sheath blight control and one application to control smut. In comparison, it was assumed Wells would need only one fungicide application to control blast.

“When you get to the bottom line, you make more money on Wells than on any other variety. Our net return on Wells was $110 per acre, compared to $97 per acre for Priscilla, $92 per acre for Cocodrie, and $61 per acre for Lemont,” Street said. “Wells comes out on top, Priscilla is next and then its Cocodrie; but Cocodrie will be the number one variety in 2002.”

Mississippi's 2001 state rice variety trials have Priscilla in the number one spot with an average yield of 198 bushels per acre. Coming in a close second is Wells with a yield of 195 bushels per acre, followed by Cocodrie with an average yield of 182 bushels per acre.

The three-year averages for the Mississippi Delta on-farm variety tests rank Wells, Priscilla and Cocodrie in the top three spots, with per acre yields of 193 bushels, 186 bushels, and 184 bushels, respectively.

At one on-farm location in the 2001 variety trials, there was a severe sheath blight problem in the Cocodrie fields, which were not treated. “In that location Cocodrie did not perform very well and you can see overall that its yields are down a little bit. However, when you look at the three-year average its yield is more similar to that of Priscilla,” Street said.

Other rice varieties included in the 2001 variety trials were Saber with a yield of 162 bushels per acre, Ahrent with a yield of 157 bushels per acre, and Lemont with a yield of 151 bushels per acre.

“We get a lot of questions about why we are not pushing the Saber variety in Mississippi. The truth is that although it has very good straw strength, it has not yielded for us, and the name of the game now is yield,” Street said.

The same is true, he said, for Ahrent. “It's nothing to get excited about as far as we're concerned. It yields about the same as Lemont, and you can tell from the variety planting percentages that we, for good reason, are rapidly getting away from Lemont in Mississippi.

“Overall, we had all sorts of problems in rice production this year, including fertility, weeds, diseases, insects, harvesting problems, but yet we had record yields,” Street said.

The USDA state-wide estimate of 6,500 pounds (144 bushels) per acre, is “in the ballpark,” according to Street, who expects Mississippi's 2002 rice acreage will increase 5 to 10 percent over 2001.

Included in those acreage figures will likely be some fields of the new Clearfield rice varieties.

Mississippi yield trials in 2001 included Clearfield variety lines 121 and 141, which yielded 158 bushels per acre and 133 bushels per acre, respectively. “Clearfield 121 is the best of the two varieties that will be widely available commercially in 2002, but it is still only yielding in the Lemont range in our on-farm studies,” Street said.

The Clearfield varieties, he said, may find a niche in those areas with severe red rice problems. “The Clearfield lines do allow us to grow rice in red rice areas but, according to our economic numbers, their profit potential is not nearly as good as it is with the other rice varieties currently available.”

The 2001 economic study of rice varieties reported a net return of $19 per acre for Clearfield 121 and a net loss of $50 per acre for Clearfield 141.

“If you plant the Clearfield varieties, watch your costs and hope you don't have to make any fungicide applications, because if you do, you're not making any money with the yields that we got in our state variety trials,” Street said.


e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.