Cool, wet spring stressing rice crops


Rural farmlands of Region 8 have been inundated with over 7 inches of rain over the last month.

Experts say it's almost time to make a judgment call to stick with rice...or go to soybeans.

Rice farmers faced a dreadful growing season in 2009.

According to the Arkansas Extension Agency, 2013 has been colder and wetter than 2009 ever dreamed of being.

Cross County farmer Will Nicholson says he is one month behind schedule due to the persistent spring rains.

"We've got anywhere from 3 to 4 inches of rain here over the last week and the rice we planted beforehand is starting to emerge. Now we're emerging in the crust issue and we're having to flush the fields to soften the soil.:

Despite the 3" rain surplus, the Nicholson's have been busy flushing 700 acres of rice fields in an effort to saturate the topsoil.

The clay loom absorbs and holds water quite effectively, but the afternoon sun dries the topsoil to a tough crust and prevents new seedlings from emerging.

"We're getting out of our prime window for optimal yield. The later we get, we run into high temperatures during flowering."

The time has arrived for Nicholson to flood his 700 acres of rice fields, but much of the land remains barren.

Nicholson admits he should have a stand on seedlings by mid-May but it's just been too cool for rice seedlings to grow properly.

"With the cool temperatures this year, the heat units have made a slow-growing crop, which will put the crop behind too. The rice that was planted early is still behind and has also caused a slower germination."

Nicholson is hoping that the heat arrives in time to fill out the kernels for a substantial harvest.

The shorter the time to plant maturity, the better the odds are of finishing the crop.

"We have another field that more than likely won't be finished leveling in time this year. We're going to wait to plant that with beans because it's getting too late with the rice there."

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