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Delta Farm Press
by Jarrod Hardke, Rice Extension Agronomist - September 24, 2021
“It’s a mighty hard livin’, but a dang good feeling to run these roads.”
Briefly put, yield reports continue to be bright as we cross the mid-point of rice
harvest progress in Arkansas. Most seem very optimistic about their yields this year
and there have been very few complaints about low-yielding fields or underperforming
cultivars. Perhaps the only general minor disappointment is that row rice fields
haven’t performed as well for some this year as in recent years – more investigation
will be needed on why that is, but like so many things this year the weather likely
played a large role.
All of these add up to an expectation for a solid state average yield in line with
the past several years. That is, close to the state average yield record. Could
we surpass the record? Well it’s possible, particularly given how close we’ve been
to it for four years, but we still have a lot of rice to harvest to see if the pace
continues to the end.
Milling yields have stabilized some at this point but would still be considered below
average. Hopefully we will see an upward trend as we get into harvesting later planted
rice. Only time will tell.
Table 1. Harvest progress by week, 2016-2021.
Fig. 1. NOAA 7-day precipitation forecast.
Reasons for low milling yields were touched on several weeks ago, but it bears repeating.
The heavy dews we’ve had over the past month or more have a lot to do with it – head
rice yields specifically. In general, your head rice yield (% whole kernels) is controlled
by the plant and by the environment. The plant can only do so much and then the weather
starts to chip away at it.
Essentially, as a rice kernel reaches lower moisture for harvest, every time a rain
or heavy dew re-wets the kernel and then it dries back out during the day, there is
the potential for a fissure, or crack, to form. Each of these cracks provides a place
for the grain to break apart in the milling process. So when we have heavy dews followed
by hot days we get excessive wetting and drying cycles and more grain fissures. Add
in that these temperatures, humidity, and dew points have slowed the overall moisture
drop in fields delaying harvest, and you get the drier grains on the panicle undergoing
prolonged wetting and drying cycles.
Part of this lack of drying down has caused more immature (green) kernels on the panicle.
These are higher moisture and part of what is delaying field harvest. Immature kernels
are also weaker and more prone to breaking.
There is not a great deal we can do about this but to hope for better drying weather
or to just have temperatures and humidity finally fall on out so the crop will shut
down and finish out. Some management practices such as draining too early can have
a negative effect as well, stressing the completion of kernel development and grain
fill, but given the widespread problem across the state, environmental factors are
the big problem.
Fig. 1. Kernel fissured due to rapid moisture adsorption.
Jarrod Hardke and Scott Stiles
Table 1 provides a simplified comparison of potential returns for selected crops in
2021 versus 2022. In the table, 2021 variable costs are directly from Crop Enterprise
Budgets; for 2022, the only things changed from the 2021 budgets were fertilizer and
fuel costs. Clearly fertilizer and fuel costs have risen dramatically which should
have a definite impact on crop selection decisions for 2022. Read more on rising
input costs in the Rice Market Update below.
Table 1. Arkansas Crop Returns Comparison, 2021 vs 2022.
Rice futures pushed beyond key resistance this week. In trading Tuesday, the November
contract managed to close above $13.80 for the first time since August 16th. Nearby chart resistance is at the August high of $13.92. A sizeable cut to production
in the September 10th USDA outlook has helped push rice prices about 25 cents per bushel higher.
Rough Rice Nov '21 (ZRX21)
Fresh fundamental news has been sparse this week. However, harvest activity is picking
up in the Midsouth region and providing more yield information. Market momentum has
turned higher this month and the continued improvement in Gulf exports should be price
supportive. On Thursday, cash basis for delivery to mills was 18 under November futures
with bids at $6.04/bu. Basis at driers around eastern Arkansas was 25 to 32 cents
under futures with bids in the $5.91 to $5.98 range.
The U.S. Gulf continues to recover from Hurricane Ida with more grain export facilities
expected to resume operations next week. U.S. export sales of all grains continue
to reflect the logistics complications at the U.S. Gulf, with sales and shipments
below year-ago levels. Long-grain rough rice sales for the week ending September
16th dipped to a marketing year low of only 200 tons. The only rough rice sale last
week was 200 tons to Guatemala.
Long-grain milled sales and shipments were also down from the previous week’s totals.
There were no sales reported to Haiti or Iraq for the week. Total sales of 4,916
mt went mostly to Canada, Costa Rica, and Saudi Arabia.
Over the first six weeks of the 2021/22 marketing year, rough rice sales have totaled
349,066 mt vs 320,603 mt sold during the same period last year. With stronger sales
year to date to Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, rough rice sales are currently
9% ahead of last year. Carried largely by the 120,000 mt sold to Iraq, total long-grain
export sales (rough, brown and milled combined) are running 39% ahead of last year.
In Monday’s Crop Progress, U.S. rice harvest was 51% complete as of September 19th; slightly behind the 5-year average of 56 percent. Arkansas was near the halfway
mark. The Deep South is wrapping up, with Louisiana and Texas at 91 and 92% harvested,
respectively. Mississippi was 64% harvested; 2 percent ahead of their average pace.
Missouri was at 26% harvested. Fortunately, tropical storm activity has remained
well out in the mid-Atlantic this week. The near-term forecast for the Midsouth is
clear and warmer, allowing steady harvest progress.
USDA increased average yield estimates in September for all states, except Arkansas.
Arkansas’ state average yield is projected to be 7,500 pounds (166.7 bu./ac.); unchanged
from the August estimate and last year. Missouri’s average yield is projected to
be the highest in the Midsouth at 8,000 pounds (177.8 bu./ac.); up 750 pounds or almost
17 bushels from last year.
We are already getting calls this month for the 2022 budgets. With the sharp increases
in fertilizer and fuel this year, growers have been thinking about what they will
plant next year. Will higher input costs impact rice acreage in 2022? Will growers
turn more heavily to soybeans; a crop that requires less fertilizer and lower input
costs overall? Commodity and input price direction over the coming months will help
answer those questions. As mentioned last week, we have the 2022 wheat budgets available and should have the spring planted crop budgets available in early October.
Fertilizer prices continue to work higher. This week an October urea barge traded
at $600/ton fob New Orleans—the highest since May 2012. The slow return to normal
the U.S. Gulf is still causing problems in both production and movement of fertilizers
and crop chemicals. Bayer's glyphosate manufacturing plant in Louisiana has been
shut down since August 28th. We are told the Luling, Louisiana plant provides all the active ingredient for
Bayer's Roundup produced in the United States. In addition, imports of glyphosate
shipped into the Port of New Orleans are down 71% from a year ago.
Below is partial listing of some inputs from a survey that USDA AMS releases every
two weeks. These are average retail prices from ag input dealers in Illinois. Although
retail fertilizer prices in Arkansas may differ slightly, the key takeaway is the
price trend over the past year. Urea is 81% higher, DAP 74% higher, Potash has doubled
and farm diesel is up 70% compared to last year.
We hear from industry sources that price increases for urea, phosphates, and potash
are not showing any signs of a top. The fertilizer market continues to be too volatile
to predict with a mix of logistical and political issues affecting prices. The spike
in natural gas prices is another factor driving up nitrogen fertilizer costs. No doubt it will be challenging to lock-in inputs with local suppliers, but get the
process started as soon as possible.
Arkansas Rice Updates are published periodically to provide timely information and
recommendations for rice production in Arkansas. If you would like to be added to
this email list, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information will also be posted to the Arkansas Row Crops blog (http://www.arkansas-crops.com/) where additional information from Extension specialists can be found.
More information on rice production, including access to all publications and reports,
can be found at http://www.uaex.uada.edu/rice.
We sincerely appreciate the support for this publication provided by the rice farmers
of Arkansas and administered by the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.
The authors greatly appreciate the feedback and contributions of all growers, county
agents, consultants, and rice industry stakeholders.