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Rice Crop Heads For Near-Record Harvest
STONEVILLE -- September's rice harvest promises to give Mississippi growers something to celebrate -- high yields -- during national rice month.
Dr. Ted Miller, agronomist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said this year's crop will rival the record yields of 1994 when Mississippi averaged 5,900 pounds per acre. Rice harvesting began the middle of August and will finish the last couple of weeks of September.
"Mississippi's rice is looking good from Rolling Fork to Tunica -- everywhere," Miller said. "Drier conditions helped reduce problems with sheath blight this year. Although some growers saw tremendous insect pressure from rice water weevil larvae and stink bugs, the infestations were very controllable."
Dwayne Wheeler, area rice agent based in Tunica County, said yields will certainly be better than last year when Mississippi growers averaged 5,400 pounds per acre. He said showers typically do not hurt rice during harvest season unless accompanied by damaging winds.
"Prices are looking fairly good for growers, so 1996 will be one of rice's better years in Mississippi," Wheeler said.
Rice acreage is down this year nationally and statewide. The state's rice farmers planted 218,000 acres, down 24 percent from last year. Reduced acreage was largely attributed to changes in farm programs. The national acreage is down 211,000 acres from1995.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Aug. 1 crop forecast predicted Mississippi's rice crop to be about 20 percent smaller than last year. Yield is anticipated at 5,700 pounds per acre, up 300 pounds from 1995.
On a national level, the USDA Economic Research Service predicted the U.S. rice crop at 168.8 million hundredweight, down 3 percent from last year. The second highest national average yield is expected at about 5,863 pounds per acre.
The USDA's mid-August report indicated the U.S. season average farm price for 1996-97 is projected to be $8.75 to $9.75 per hundredweight.