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Rice growers overcome planting challenges, expect good harvest

Mississippi rice farmers will get money from a recent $750-million, multi-state settlement with Bayer CropScience involving the accidental release of genetically modified rice in the U.S. food chain that negatively impacted sales to foreign markets. While the settlement is welcome relief, some rice producers are expressing regret that the case ever went to trial and the potential harm done to the relationship with such an important client as Bayer CropScience.

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Although most Mississippi rice growers battled frequent spring rains that delayed planting, hampered fertilization and challenged insect and disease management, early signs point toward a good harvest.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Progress and Condition Report released Sept. 2 indicated that 58 percent of the state’s rice crop is in good condition and 28 percent is in excellent condition. Five percent is harvested.

Bobby Golden, Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station agronomist in Stoneville, said harvest is going well on the portion of the crop that is ready.

“Right now, we’re harvesting the acreage that was planted in the normal window,” Golden said. “The rain showers have slowed that a little, so we’re hoping the weather clears.”

The majority of the crop will be harvested later in September, and some fields will be ready as late as mid-October, Golden said.

The USDA’s most recent survey estimated growers planted 167,000 acres in 2014, up from 122,000 acres in 2013. Forecasted yields are around 7,000 pounds per acre.

“That averages out to about 156 bushels per acre, which is a nice state average,” Golden said. “We might have a little more than the USDA’s estimate if we get good weather, but it’s still very early in the harvesting process.”

Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said the ongoing harvest is pushing rice prices down.

“Growing conditions were good this year, which is a double-edged sword,” Williams said. “On one hand, higher yields will hurt prices. But on the other hand, rice quality is expected to be very good, which leads to an increased demand for exports that can boost prices later.”

Louisiana rough rice is trading for $12.59 per hundredweight, about $2.50 per hundredweight less than in 2013. September rice futures are trading for $12.52, down about $2.30 from 2013.

Researchers constantly work to provide the state’s growers with the best recommendations for producing crops. Ed Redona, MAFES rice breeder at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, harvested his earliest-planted variety trial in Ruleville in late August, and said it showed outstanding yield performance for one variety.

“Overall, yields were high, ranging from 225 to 322 bushels per acre,” Redona said. “Among the top-yielding entries was Rex, released by MSU in 2010, which had a yield of 285 bushels per acre.

“In 2013, Rex accounted for roughly 15 percent of the rice area in the state, which made it the most widely planted conventional pureline variety,” Redona said.

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