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Rice Farmers Yearn For More To Celebrate
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Depressed row crop prices prompted growers to plant more rice in 1999, but while growing conditions cooperated, the market did not.
Dwayne Wheeler, area agricultural agent with Mississippi State University's Extension Service in Tunica County, said the bleak soybean market was a big factor in growers planting more rice. However, since planting time, rice prices taken a turn for the worse and are running about 30 to 40 percent behind last year's figures.
"Rice is still a good gamble compared to other crops this year. For the most part, rice is a consistent yielding crop, and the costs of growing it are fairly predictable," Wheeler said. "There won't be many farmers getting rich off any of our crops this year."
Wheeler said rice growers had excellent planting conditions and started with uniform stands. In addition to avoiding major setbacks from disease and insects, most of the crop was not in the flowering or pollination stage during the hottest days and therefore should have escaped heat damage.
"It's almost like the tale of two crops. As good and problem-free as the first part of the season was, growers now are seeing more grass and red (unwanted) rice than they would like to see," Wheeler said. "Still, it's a decent crop with good potential."
This was the first year for most growers to plant the new, high-yielding variety, Priscilla.
Dr. Joe Street, rice specialist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said rice yields are difficult to predict before harvest, but he expects the state to produce an average to above average crop.
Some fields with rice heading during the extremely hot days and nights will have reduced yields.
"We anticipated more disease problems, but they just didn't materialize. Rice also had relatively light insect pressure statewide," Street said.
Street said Mississippi growers have just over 300,000 acres of rice, compared to 268,000 last year.