By the last week of March, rice planting in Arkansas had begun — but just barely. “We're at less than 1 percent total planted,” said Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist. “I know of about 5,000 acres that have gone in. Some farmers got in (the week of March 21) when dry, warm weather was here.”

Since the rains on March 28, things have slowed down.

“But I think by week's end, we'll be back in the field. Of course, we're almost into April, so we're back to the normal planting time.”

From what Wilson has heard at grower meetings and Extension contacts, his guess is Arkansas will have “something around last year's acreage. We may go up 50,000 acres — a 3 or 4 percent increase. I say that with hesitation even though Arkansas will fluctuate 50,000 rice acres just because of natural rotation decisions. Just in the large rice counties, where they're locked into a 1:1 or 1:2 rotations with soybeans, things can swing 50,000 acres.”

In guessing at acreage, the one thing Wilson admits he may not be giving enough credence to are current soybean prices.

“There is major interest in soybeans. I could be wrong about the rice increase — we may lose some rice acres to beans. If I'm a producer looking at $9 soybeans and it takes about two-thirds less to grow the crop compared to rice, that's got to play a factor. How big a factor, I don't know.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com