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Rice Struggles Up Through Cold Soil
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi growers have most of their rice planted, but cold, wet conditions are hindering plants' development.
Dr. Joe Street, extension rice specialist in Stoneville, said farmers are beginning to get concerned.
Most Mississippi rice growers prefer to plant the Lemont variety, which needs to be planted by mid-May," Street said. "Later plantings could be adversely affected by cool fall weather and rains that could hamper harvest."
Street said the later the crop develops, the greater the risk of heat damaging the grain by reducing pollination and quality.
"This spring's cold temperatures have hindered the rice stands. In some cases, we're not getting emergence, even after the seed has had five weeks in the ground," Street said.
Don Respess, Bolivar County agricultural agent, said more rice will have to be replanted than in normal years.
"The crop is especially bad in fields that have been exceptionally wet this spring," Respess said. "Daytime temperatures just haven't been high enough."
Bolivar County leads the state in rice production with almost 64,000 acres in 1996. Respess said he expects the acreage to increase to about 75,000 this year.
"Rice pays debts. Bolivar County is ideal for growing rice and farmers recognize its value," Respess said.
Dwayne Wheeler, Tunica County agricultural agent, said few fields have rice emerging.
"The longer seeds sit in the soil and experience cool, wet conditions, the greater the chance of seedling disease," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said farmers are planting more rice than last year, largely due to improved market prices and the opportunity to rotate to a different crop. The 1996 Farm Bill allows farmers more freedom to plant different crops.
"Farmers like to rotate rice and soybeans. This year, choosing which crop to plant has been difficult because markets have been good for both rice and soybeans," Wheeler said.