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Hot Nights Could Lower Rice Yields
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- High nighttime temperatures have left farmers concerned about yields, but they won't have long to wait as harvest has already started in some areas.
Dr. Joe Street, rice specialist with Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center, said the 1998 rice crop looks pretty good.
"It was hot and dry this summer and we're not yet sure what the high nighttime temperatures will do to yield," Street said. "We're in the wait-and-see mode."
Street predicted rice harvests of 5,600 to 5,700 pounds per acre, down from the recent years' average of 5,800 pounds. Daytime heat during the pollination stage contributed to these lower yields, as did nighttime temperatures.
"If the temperature goes above 95 degrees, pollination is sometimes reduced," Street said. "Temperatures in the upper 70s at night cause the plants to burn more carbohydrates at night, which cuts back on yields."
High temperatures were not all bad news and did help mature the crop quicker. Harvest started the third week of August in places, which is a little sooner than usual.
Excessive winds early in the growing season prevented or delayed some timely weed control, the drought increased water use, and some areas were hit by unusually high army worm infestations and disease. Despite a few snags along the way, the crop was successful.
"I think we're in better shape with rice than with the other commodities," Street said. "Rice is a consistent crop, and we very seldom have a crop failure. We know we're going to water it, and we pretty much know how the yield will turn out."
Don Respess, MSU's Extension Service area rice agent in Bolivar County, said early indications in the Delta are that the crop should yield between 5,625 and 5,650 pounds per acre. Prices are expected to be about $9.30 to $9.50 per hundredweight.
"Rice's acreage is up 6 to 7 percent in Bolivar County for a total of 77,000 acres," Respess said.
According to figures released by the USA Rice Council celebrating September as National Rice Month, Americans now consume 25.4 pounds of rice per person each year. More than 90 percent of this rice is American-grown. Exporting to more than 100 countries makes the United States one of the world's largest rice exporter, supplying about 17 percent of the rice in the world's trade.