Buoyed by good prices, growers of medium-grain rice scrambled over the winter to find enough seed to plant, according to Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist.

“The scramble was touched off by favorable medium-grain contracts compared to long grain. Growers have decided to plant medium-grain rice in areas where medium-grain is not normally produced.”

Wilson said medium-grain rice can be grown with good results nearly everywhere in Arkansas. It’s similar to long-grain rice to produce.

“As long as there is a market, medium-grain varieties are good alternatives to mix into your cropping plan.”

Three medium-grain varieties are available to producers: Jupiter, Bengal and Neptune. Wilson figures Jupiter will grab the largest percentage of medium-grain acreage this year because of the seed supply situation.

Seed producers grew more Jupiter last year because they figured it would be in demand this year. Jupiter produces higher yields and has fewer disease issues than Bengal, a variety that’s been around for 15 years.

Bengal has the preferred seed size, but is susceptible to bacterial panicle blight, according to Wilson. Jupiter has a smaller kernel than Bengal.

Neptune, the newest of the three medium-grain varieties, is in short supply. It has good yield potential and a preferred kernel size but may not have resistance to bacterial panicle blight.

Another factor that came into play this year was the high demand for medium-grain rice, which is used in cereals and other food products.

“In a normal year, a few growers raise medium-grain rice, and they have their pick of varieties. But the high demand for medium-grain rice this year and the favorable market situation caused more farmers to consider growing medium-grain rice and this put a squeeze on seed supplies. Farmers were scrambling to find seed and some went to California to find seed.”

Wilson reminded farmers earlier this year that there is a quarantine on California varieties because of disease issues.

Meanwhile, the optimum planting date window for all rice is April 1 to May 20 for south Arkansas and April 15 to May 10 for north Arkansas.

“We still have time to get the crop planted in the optimum window but each rainfall seems to push us later and later.”

High on a farmer’s list of things to do is make a decision about the seeding rate.

A University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture publication, “RICESEED” (Rice Information Sheet No. 163), is available to help calculate seeding rates for specific varieties and is also available in a computer program available at riceseed.uaex.edu.

In addition to calculating seeding rates for specific varieties, these resources also assist in making adjustments for soil types, planting dates, planting systems, seedbed condition, etc.

The RICESEED computer version can also assist in calibrating drills by giving the number of seeds required per row foot, depending on row spacing, to achieve a given seeding rate.