Rice Farmers Optimistic About 2004 Yields

September 4, 2004 -- Posted at: 12:30am CDT

JONESBORO, AR -The 2004 rice harvest is underway. A spokesperson for Riceland Foods said some farmers' crop this year is the highest yield they've ever had. Farmers in Northeast Arkansas haven't seen numbers at that level, but averages are up considerably over 2003.

Tony Bradley has been growing rice for 25 years, and is in the process of harvesting 1,500 acres near Jonesboro. According to monitoring gauges in most area farmers' machines, yields are up 15 bushels on average from last year. Bradley believes one particular field near Jonesboro will produce around 160 bushels per acre of dried grain.

"Maybe the cool weather maybe let it fill out a little bit better; did not have the blanket that we have with hot weather sometimes," Bradley explained.

Timely rainfall was another big factor in a higher yield. Craighead County Cooperative Extension agent Eric Grant said farming improvements over the last few years have also likely helped increase numbers. More and more rice growers are using an alternative watering practice called side-inlet irrigation.

"They measure the wells and then try to divide that water up into the different patties, where it just doesn't cascade down, but each patty is flooded at the same rate," Grant added.

Another factor: a new chemical called Clear Field that does what its' name says. It kills weeds and red rice -- an unwanted variety of rice that is resistant to most herbicides.

Grant commented, "One of my producers cut a field yesterday, and it was the Clear Field 161, and he made 170 bushels green weight."

Rice market prices are down at least $1 per bushel, but Tony Bradley remains optimistic.

"Hopefully we're gonna see some improvement after the harvest," said Bradley.