As combines ease into harvest, it hasn’t been an easy cropping season for Mid-South rice producers or researchers.

“We’ve had a lot of hot weather – that’s really been the problem,” says Karen Moldenhauer, a University of Arkansas rice breeder. “Temperatures have been above 75 degrees at night. During the daytime, it’s been in the 90s and 100s. Anytime temperatures get above 95 degrees, sterility begins to kick in which causes blanks every now and then. This year, though, there have been so many hot days and nights that sterility has really been a problem.

“Even early on, we had hot weather during June when some of the crop was in panicle differentiation. Then, there was hot weather again during the boot stage when microsporogenesis was occurring (a pollen mother cell undergoes meiosis and gives rise to four haploid microspores).”

Panicle blight has been scattered throughout much of the rice crop. In some cases, “it’s hard to tell whether it’s panicle blight or heat, sterility and blanking up and down on the panicle. It’s hard to call between the two in some instances.”

Early reported yields “have been inconsistent. I haven’t cut any rice on the (Stuttgart) station yet, but what we hear are yields which are all over the place -- from very low (something we haven’t seen in a long time) to 200 bushels, or a bit above. You don’t really hear any ‘bragging’ yields this year. It seems we’re about 20 bushel off recent years’ yields.  

“Because of the environment, the inconsistency of yields may not be surprising – the early rice is in the same situation. Some of the early rice did well because it missed the heat and other early fields yielded poorly. Early on, growers had some trouble getting water across the fields because it was so hot and dry.”

As the later rice is harvested, Moldenhauer suspects milling quality will drop.

For more on Moldenhauer's work, see