Considering the tough May weather the Arkansas and Louisiana rice crops endured, things are looking up, Extension specialists say.

“After the floods, in the central part of the state – Avoyelles and Rapides parishes – a bunch of rice had to replanted,” says John Saichuk, Extension rice specialist with the LSU AgCenter. “In other areas, though, we managed to save a lot of the rice crop.”

The flooding set Louisiana producers back and threw off herbicide applications and, “in some cases, canceled out sprayings of 2,4-D. It also ruined chances for farmers to drain fields for water weevil management or straight-head.”

With so much rain, says Saichuk, the fields could be drained but they still wouldn’t dry down. How much these management delays and problems will cost producers in the end, “we just don’t know.”

Despite the days of deluge, the crop still looks “fair to good,” says Saichuk. “We do have some areas on both ends of the scale. It’s tricky prognosticating: last year, I thought there was no way we’d have a better crop than the year prior. The crop turned out to be better. This rice is just beginning to head out and we’re just entering the disease season, so we’ll have a better handle on how good a crop we have in the next couple of weeks.”

Most Arkansas rice fields are now fertilized and flooded. Some of the state’s early rice is reaching mid-season form.

“The disease phase of the season has just begun,” says Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist. “We’re beginning to pick up some sheath blight on semi-dwarfs. We’re also picking up some rice blast on more sensitive varieties like Wells, Francis, Bengal, and Clearfield 161. We’re trying to get the word out to producers to get their fields flooded and hold it to keep blast in check.”

Back in south Louisiana, despite the rains, Steve Linscombe’s research fields at the Crowley Rice Research Station weren’t hurt badly. However, one of his off-station research locations did go under water for about 9 days.

“It looked ragged for a while after the water came off, but it’s come back,” says the rice breeder. “We had a lot of commercial fields that were under water for a long time. Some of those fields lost stands, some had to be replanted, and some were too far along to be replanted.”

Overall, though, Linscombe doesn’t think the floods had a significant impact on the crop.

“Now, that isn’t true everywhere – we had some producers that were badly hurt. But, in general, we’ve still got a nice crop. That said – and I hope I’m wrong – I don’t think it won’t be as good as last year’s crop (when a yield record was set). Considering what could have happened with all the rain, we got off lighter than just about everyone thought we would.”

(Editor’s note: The annual field day at the Rice Research Station in Crowley, La., will be held July 1)

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com