Texas rice farmers are poised to make another good crop on increased acreage, but heavy rains for the last two weeks have growers concerned about disease pressure and the cost of treatments.

“The crop looked good two to three weeks ago,” said Garry McCauley, Texas AgriLife Extension water and weed management specialist.

McCauley discussed crop prospects yesterday at the 63rd annual field day at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont, Texas.

“We’re about a week and-a-half behind,” McCauley said, “and we’re seeing diseases come in. Producers south and west of Houston have received from 5 inches to 12 inches of rain in the last two weeks.”

McCauley said some farmers have applied two fungicide treatments and two insecticide treatments. “And we have about two weeks left. It’s already a high dollar crop and the price is down.”

He said some growers are also concerned about heavy infestations of grasshoppers. Texas AgriLife entomologist Mo Way said during a field day presentation that grasshoppers typically don’t do enough damage to warrant treatment. “I’ve never seen a situation in which treating grasshoppers was justified,” he said.

“Farmers find it hard not to treat when something is chewing their plants, though,” McCauley said. “Some growers have treated two or three times.”

McCauley said the heavy rain also has damaged grain sorghum prospects across South Texas. “I think we’ve lost it all, at least from Houston to Victoria,” he said. “Seed are sprouting from the head. It was a really good looking crop.”

McCauley and center director Ted Wilson said Texas acreage is up some 4 percent over last year. “Some of that acreage is from fields damaged several years ago by Hurricane Ike,” McCauley said. “It came back into production this year.”

He said farms in that area that had good water have a pretty good rice crop coming on; farms with lower quality water had trouble getting stands.

Wilson said the 2009 crop was excellent with a combination of the first crop and the ratoon crop making as much as 15,000 pounds per acre. He attributes much of Texas high production average, second to California, to laser leveling and use of hybrid rice. “About 30 percent of Texas’ acreage is laser leveled,” he said. “That’s a big advantage.

Dayton, Texas grower Ray Stoesser said hybrid rice varieties have helped increase his yields in the last five to six years. “Ten years ago we were averaging 6,000 pounds per acre; now we’re making 8,000 to 9,000.”

Stoesser said his crop looks good. “We’ve had enough water now to make the crop.”

e-mail: rsmith@farmpress.com