I feel like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day”. Speaking of “Groundhog Day”, the Groundhog definitely missed this year’s prediction. At any rate, we are where we are and all we can do is manage what we are being dealt. According to USDA, for the week ending May 5, we had planted 14% of the rice crop with 11% emerged. Last year, we had planted 98% and had 80% emerged and the five year average for this time of year is that we have 80% planted and 62% emerged. Needless to say we are well behind our recent norms.
Saturday morning, I began to receive questions about the effects of frost on rice. The temperature dipped to as low as 38 in parts of the Delta, and a light frost was present on some rice early Saturday morning. Last year, I flooded rice earlier than I have ever before and this year I am trying to answer questions about frost on rice. This basically sums up the drastic difference we’ve experienced thus far. The worst-looking rice I have seen since the weekend cold snap was rice that had emerged within 2 days of the cold weather. On Monday, May 6th, the rice was extremely pale yellow and continues to look that way today, May 7th. However, upon closer inspection the top portion of the leaf is beginning to turn green. My hope is that when I return from the winter rice nursery in Puerto Rico this Saturday, the rice will look much better. Seedling rice typically can endure a lot of stress. Unfortunately, I have diagnosed and held growers’ hands countless times over the years when glyphosate drift has affected seedling rice. Many more times than not, we have harvested a good crop when seedling rice was damaged by glyphosate drift. Contact injury like paraquat is even less harmful. So, I have told growers I think we will grow out of the “ugliness” and be ok. Right now, we just need a dose of warm weather and sunshine for rice to progress.
The last few years, I have really used our planting date studies to push us towards planting early. I have focused on the yield benefits of early planting. I have used these data to stress that we can more consistently achieve high yields when planted early. Today, I want to use the same data to suggest that though we are behind, rice can perform exceptionally well when planted in May. Many folks remember the rice yield record setting year of 2007. When rice was planted on May 20th, 2007, 96% of the maximum yield potential was achieved. We also remember the rice crop of 2010. When rice was planted May 20, 2010, we harvested 53% of the maximum yield potential. The biggest difference in the temperature in 2007 and 2010 was the frequency of nighttime temperatures above 75 degrees. In 2007, only 5 nights were above 75 and the maximum was 77. In 2010, 17 nights stayed above 75, with several of those nights being 78 and 79 degrees. Due to the environmental conditions in 2010, heat induced sterility and bacterial panicle blight combined to greatly reduce rice grain yields. If normal or below normal temperatures prevail when rice is heading/pollenating, we have the potential to harvest a very good late planted crop.