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Industry gathers in Stuttgart for rice field day

Aug 13, 2023

With the 2023 harvest approaching, rice farmers and industry professionals took some time to regroup at the Arkansas Rice Field Day at Stuttgart.

The annual event was held Aug. 3 at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's Rice Research and Extension Center.

2023 has shaped up to be a good year for rice production in Arkansas, with expectations of a state yield averaging between 165 and 170 bushels per acre on about 1.3 million acres, said Jarrod Hardke, professor and rice extension agronomist for the Division of Agriculture.

"It looks like a good crop and the first rice cut could be next week," Hardke said. "We're not out of the woods yet, with potential for rice stink bugs, but it has been a dramatic turn from this time last year when there was extreme drought."

The state record for average rice yield in Arkansas is 170 bushels per acre, achieved in 2021. The 2022 state average was 165 bushels per acre. About 205,000 more acres of rice were planted in 2023 than in 2022, Hardke noted.

An estimated 365 people, including rice farmers and other industry professionals, turned out to hear the latest research updates and extension recommendations from the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, the research and outreach arms of the Division of Agriculture. This year's event was co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center.

Alton Johnson, director of the Rice Research and Extension Center, offered a special thanks to his staff and the researchers for their work to improve the staple diet of half of the earth's population of nearly 8 billion people, with a focus on sustainability and profitability. Arkansas is the top rice-producing state in the nation, according to the 2022 Arkansas Agriculture Profile.

"We are still trying to reach our best, but what you saw today is part of the things we are doing to make sure that we continue to be the top rice-producing state in the country," Johnson said.

Field day stops covered research on rice breeding for improved yield potential, quality and disease resistance for long-grain, medium-grain and aromatic rice varieties. Scientists also offered tips on soil health and nutrient demands, herbicide and pesticide usage and technology applications for "precision agriculture." Arkansas rice research is supported by the Rice Checkoff Program, which is administered by the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.

The Division of Agriculture has one of the few public rice breeding programs in the United States. A 2020 study by the Division of Agriculture of five Rice Checkoff-funded programs suggests that every dollar invested in the program generated an average return of $28.49 between 2002 and 2018, and a return of $70.45 when ecosystem benefits are included.

"There is a cooperative spirit in Arkansas agriculture, and it's very consistent with our Riceland mission and values," said Jason Brancel, president and chief executive officer of Riceland Foods. "Riceland's mission is being a farmer-owned cooperative helping feed the world sustainably."

Brancel went on to say that the field day offered "data-driven insights that drive decisions" around yield, disease and pest resistance, plant health, durability and irrigation practices, as well as ever-changing growing conditions, such as high nighttime temperatures.

Keith Glover, president and CEO of Producers Rice Mill Inc., complimented the work being done at the Rice Research and Extension Center, which includes the development of two new rice varieties with improved yield potential: the long-grain Ozark and medium-grain Taurus.

"We've seen a lot of good numbers out of Ozark when we look at and test mill it, it looks very good ... we're very excited about it," Glover said of the varieties, which will be widely available for purchase next year. "Taurus, the medium-grain, is another good-looking variety.

"Ozark was right next to the No. 1 non-hybrid variety that is being grown this year, and I think it is going to give it a run for the money," he said.

Glover also thanked the Division of Agriculture for its research and extension work.

"I want to congratulate you and your team for an outstanding field day," Glover said. "But more importantly, I want to thank you and your team for what you do the other 364 days of the year because these folks work hard on all of our behalf."

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow the agency on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch.

John Lovett is with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

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