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Rice heads into harvest season
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's rice crop is progressing into harvest season with most growers optimistic that they will have reasons to celebrate National Rice Month in September.
Joe Street, rice specialist at Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said the state's growers began harvesting 253,000 acres of rice in the middle of August.
"While it is still too early to tell, most of the early crop is looking good, and growers generally are satisfied with yields. Rice yields are very difficult to predict, so it will take time to see how the rest of the crop will do," Street said.
Growers harvested Mississippi's record average yield of 6,600 pounds per acre in 2001. Last year, growers averaged 6,400 pounds. The specialist said weather patterns varied throughout this year's growing season. Sometimes conditions were favorable to disease growth, sometimes not.
"We had a little more blast than in recent years. Time will tell if it had any significant impact on yields," Street said. "The wet weather delayed some timely fertilizer applications, but growers were able to overcome most of that."
Street said the best news is that markets are better than last year.
Don Respess, Bolivar County Extension director, said he is confident of his county's ability to grow rice and that the quality is looking good.
"If the price is there, we can make the yield," he said. "It's scary how good the crop looks this year. At this point, we just don't need any storms or winds to blow down the rice. The recent high temperatures are helping most fields mature pretty quickly."
Respess said the rice industry is working hard to increase demand for U.S.-grown rice. In his county, Delta Rice Promotions will be hosting the 13th annual Delta Rice Luncheon at 11 a.m. on Sept. 19 at Delta State University.
"Export markets have improved to help rice prices, but we still need Americans to recognized the importance of our crop and to increase consumption of it," Respess said. "This luncheon gives us a chance to show off more than 300 rice dishes by Delta cooks. You could serve rice with every meal and never get tired of it."
Luncheon tickets can be purchased in advance from Delta area Extension offices or Farm Bureau offices or at the door for $2. For more information on the luncheon, call (662) 843-8371.