Early-season weather may impact rice yield


It's the welcome sign of fall across northeast Arkansas--combine harvesters stirring up dust across northeast Arkansas countryside.

The weather has recently taken a turn for the better and Poinsett County farmer Gary Sitzer's yields are ranging from a respectable 170 to 190 bushels per acre.

He says every year is met with unique challenges from strange weather patterns to pestilence and disease.

Some of this rice was trying to pollinate and go through some critical stages when we went through a three week period of rainy weather with very little sunshine."

Sitzer dodged much of Thursday's rain.

Sunshine and a light breeze blowing across his thousand acres of rice is drying out the last bit of moisture.

"You don't want to have your rice field moisture to have gotten pretty low and then start raining and re-hydrating it. That usually tends to hurt your milling."

Just 30 miles west in Jackson County, farmer Gus Graham has been sidelined.

The Tuckerman area saw one-inch rain, 40 mile-per-hour wind, and pea-sized hail on Thursday.

His rice should dry out by the end of the day, but it's the late-planted rice he's worried about.

"Rice is all about heat units. It takes heat units to make a rice crop. As we get the shorter days, the rain, and cooler weather, that just puts it off that much more."

Graham says he's harvested 400 acres of rice so far, so it's too early to tell if he can match last year's record statewide average of 166 bushels per acre.

Jackson County's main cash crop is rice and acreage is down 30 to 40 percent from last year.

"Average is about 100 to 115 thousand acres. This year because of the rain early and the lateness everyone got planted, Jackson County's only got about 70 thousand acres."

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