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Rice crop off to promising start

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi’s 2010 rice crop is ahead of schedule and looking good, even after strong storms swept through the state in April.

Nathan Buehring, rice specialist at Mississippi State University’s Delta Research and Extension Center, said growers had about 75 percent of the crop planted by the end of April. In the last two years, the majority of the planting took place well into May.

“Before the April 24 storms, we had near-perfect weather for fieldwork, which was good because of the amount of ruts in the fields from last fall’s harvests in wet conditions,” Buehring said. “Farmers had to work much harder this spring to get their fields ready for planting.”

Although many people think of rice as a water-loving crop, the time to flood the fields does not come until the plants are about six inches tall. Growers like for the plants to grow quickly to minimize the cost of extra weed control.

“The big storms did not damage the young crop but brought some fields as much as 5 inches of rain, and then it turned much cooler,” Buehring said. “Cool weather really slows growth and development of all crops.”

Mississippi farmers are expected to plant about 270,000 acres of rice, up 25,000 acres from 2009. Buehring said every rice-growing state is expanding its acreage, which will likely impact prices near harvest time.

Extension agricultural economist John Michael Riley said declining prices are primarily due to a stronger U.S. dollar. In February, the September futures price was running around $13.50 per hundredweight. Currently, those prices are about $12.30 per hundredweight.

Riley said the cost of production for all crops has come down since 2008.

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