Louisiana’s rice crop is running late but early yields are promising.

“We’re two weeks behind normal and only began getting into harvest (the last week of July),” said Johnny Saichuk, Louisiana Extension rice specialist. “Harvest will be in earnest next week. Yesterday (July 28), coming back from a trip to north Louisiana, was the first time I’ve seen a bunch of machines in the field cutting rice.”

Too little rice has been harvested to make a definite statement on expected yields. However, with early numbers being reported in Acadia Parish and surrounding areas, Saichuk is optimistic. “We’re getting reports of a lot of good yields — many near 50 barrels. At 3.6 bushels per barrel, that’s about 180 bushels. Many folks are surprised at how well it looks.”

Cocodrie seems to be yielding well. Saichuk has heard of “lots of 40-barrel yields all the way up to 50 barrels on that variety.”

After trouble getting a rain earlier this season, frequent afternoon showers are hampering harvest. Some producers are harvesting rice in mud. That will reduce chances for a second crop.

“Once you rut up the field, it’s very difficult to second crop it.”

Louisiana’s rice crop dodged many of the pest and disease problems of years past. Compared to most years, stink bug populations in the crop were relatively light.

“We were also rather clean with diseases,” said Saichuk. “But when the hot, humid weather hit we began getting calls — especially from the northeast part of the state — on sheath blight and panicle blight. Those diseases came on late, much later than we expected. We thought we were home-free and then ended up having to spray some fields. I even ran across quite a bit of fall smut in a field yesterday. I didn’t expect that.”

Arkansas

The Arkansas rice crop has been through “a tough year,” said Chuck Wilson at the Progeny Field Day outside Wynne, Ark., on July 27. “Weed control hasn’t worked well because it’s been so dry. Stand establishment was also a problem because of the lack of rain. Water availability is at critical levels and water is unavailable in some places. Producers also face $2 diesel and urea is at $350 per ton.”

Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist, said rice started out “looking very ragged but seemed to get better every week. In April and May I was thinking, ‘There’s no way we’ll have decent yields.’ But it kept getting better. It certainly looks better this week than last.

“Of course, I don’t know what the extremely hot weather in early July will do to yields. The current cool front will help, though. We should have some rice drained shortly if it hasn’t already been drained.

“Hopefully, the mild temperatures we’ve got now will stick around and allow us some decent yields. This cool spell has been what the doctor ordered as far as helping us during flowering and heading. We need another three weeks of it.”

With the arrival of rain and clouds, of course, blast can follow.

“There’s been blast scattered around,” Wilson said. “The problem isn’t as widespread as last year, but if it’s on your farm it’s bad enough.”

Recently, many calls to Wilson have concerned “yellowing” of rice late in the season — early boot, occasionally late boot. The calls are particularly about Clearfield 161 and 131, Cocodrie and Cheniere.

“These varieties are inherently yellow. Some varieties are darker than others… The reality is it’s difficult to green up Cheniere, Cocodrie or Clearfield 161 like you can Wells. Wells has a dark green color, and many growers are familiar with that variety. But that dark color isn’t going to reach the Clearfields later in the year.

“When you think you may be short of nitrogen or have a potash deficiency, look carefully. It may be the inherent nature of the variety you planted.”

Varieties

On the Progeny tour Wilson pointed to some varieties of interest. Among them:

• Banks. Banks is the new long grain/LaGrue-type rice. It has several backcrosses of LaGrue. But it also has blast resistance similar to Kaybonnet.

“In this area (around Wynne), Banks seems to be a good fit. Some consultants around here are very excited about it. It’s yielded well — comparable to Wells and Francis. Because of its LaGrue background, its seedling vigor is good on high-salt/high-pH fields.”

• Cheniere. A release out of Louisiana last year, Cheniere is a semi-dwarf intended to replace Cocodrie, said Wilson. It has better straighthead tolerance than Cocodrie with slightly better yield and milling potential.

“Cheniere is quite a bit better with sheath blight. In fact, (Arkansas Extension plant pathologist Rick) Cartwright has it rated moderately susceptible to sheath blight, similar to Wells.

“In side-by-side plots, there’s a noticeable difference between Cheniere and something like Clearfield 161 and Cocodrie. Certainly, I like it better in that respect.”

• Spring. An early-season variety from Arkansas, Spring was released just a few months ago. It’s about five days earlier than Jefferson and 10 days earlier than Cocodrie.

“Spring has blast resistance comparable to Katy and Drew. In most instances, it seems resistant. However, it’s rated moderately resistance. There was one study where it looked like it had blast, so we were cautious about calling it truly resistant. In most tests, though, it’s been blast resistant.”

Spring’s yield potential is about 5 to 8 bushels better than Jefferson. Although not a bin buster, “in its maturity class it’s one of the better yielders.”

• Jupiter. Another Louisiana release, Jupiter is a medium grain. It’s got true resistance to bacterial panicle blight.

“Jupiter looks promising. Disease has had a significant impact on a lot of medium grain growers. Medium grain acres are down to about 5 percent total which is about half last year’s total. Jupiter may help bring that acreage back.”

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com