What is in this article?:
- California producers struggled through late planting and rising production costs.
- Harvest in California, at 55 percent complete, is behind the five-year average of 87 percent.
- The largest challenge for the financial viability of California rice growers is controlling production costs.
“Terrible,” says Texas AgriLife Research rice specialist Garry McCauley in summing up the 2010 rice crop.
“We’ve seen yields in some isolated pockets that were only 10 percent to 15 percent down,” McCauley says. “But we also see pockets where crop production is off 50 percent. Overall, yields are down 40 percent to 45 percent.”
He says farmers who are making 32, 33 or 34 barrels per acre had expected to make close to 60 barrels earlier in the season. A barrel is equal to 147.6 pounds. Heavy rainfall at heading played a role in the crop loss.
“No more than 10 percent of the crop will be at a high yield level,” McCauley says. “Disease, temperature, rainfall and panicle blight all took a toll on this crop. We had a no-win situation with the main crop; the ratoon crop doesn’t look much better.”
With about 15 percent to 20 percent of the second crop harvested, “the best yields I’ve heard about are 20 barrels per acre and some are making 10 to 15 barrels,” McCauley says. “We usually have some that top 35 with hybrid rice.”
High expectations for some varieties have been dashed. Hybrid rice has out-performed traditional varieties, McCauley says, but hybrid yields are off significantly as well. “Some performed a little better than others, and farmers asked what they could have done differently to get better results. There was nothing they could have done to make the situation better.
“A lot of farmers had high inputs with two applications of fungicide, weed control and other costs. They did everything right and still made 32 barrels.”
McCauley says Texas rice farmers still in business are stable and likely will survive this down year. “They had two good years in a row,” he says. “In 2008 they had an average crop but exceptional prices. Last year they had an exceptional crop and average prices.”
Acreage for 2011 may not vary much from 2010 because of the poor crop, McCauley says. “Any rice farmer in it just for fun has already gone.”
The one bright spot for the 2010 crop is milling quality. “Milling quality is exceptional,” McCauley says.