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High hopes prevail with early rice crop
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dry conditions during March enabled growers to plant much of the 2004 rice crop ahead of schedule and produce hopes for another good season -- this year with better price potential.
Mississippi rice growers harvested a record average in 2003 of 6,800 pounds per acre. The average price for the market year was $6.65 per hundredweight, which was a couple dollars more than the previous two years, but still low.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said he is optimistic this year will see even better prices.
“Current cash prices for rice are around $10 per hundredweight, and harvest-time futures are trading around $9.30. At this same time last year, those prices were about $5.50 for cash market and $6.40 for the futures,” Anderson said.
Bolivar County Extension director Don Respess said prices still need to be better to compensate for the increased costs in fuel and other inputs. For example, fuel prices have increased 25 percent to 33 percent since last year. To reduce production costs, some growers are using side inlets to flood their fields.
“Many fields were prepared last fall, so the first thing growers did this spring was plant,” Respess said. “The dry March also helped us prepare fields earlier than normal, but then we had some cool weather after planting that slowed growth. It doesn't seem to matter when you plant; you still won't start cutting rice before September.”
Respess described the crop as “looking very good” and said the biggest challenge has been applying post-emergence herbicides and fertilizer because of the windy conditions.
Tim Walker, assistant research professor at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, has been monitoring rice's progress. He also has concerns about high winds.
“We are starting to see quite a bit of herbicide drift injury. Rice is extremely sensitive to Roundup and similar chemicals used on cotton and soybeans,” Walker said. “It is imperative that growers and commercial applicators read and follow the label directions, especially with regard to avoiding applications when winds are more than 10 miles per hour.”
Walker said these herbicides can drift several miles. He said winds also cause problems with herbicide and fertilizer treatments on rice because they make uniform applications impossible.
Mississippi's rice acreage is predicted at 235,000, unchanged from 2003.