Next season could bring significant reductions in acreage for some rice producing states, according to rice specialists addressing the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Austin, Texas. Here’s a state by state look.

California

Chris Greer, rice farming systems manager, University of California, said it was a difficult planting season for many California producers. “We had periods of rain through much of March, then in April, it cleared out. We had about a one and half month period to get the crop in, and for the most part we did a good job of getting everything planted.

Fairly mild temperatures prevailed during the vegetative stage of rice development, “which usually leads to good yields, unless it is so cool that we get cool temperature blanking like we did in 2010. This year, we escaped that problem. We did see rice blast as far north and east as we’ve ever seen it.

“In October, we had about a 9-day period where we either had rain, dew, fog or drizzle. Yields and milling quality were looking good until we started getting some of the appraisals back. The vast majority of the rice is U.S. Grade No. 1, and we had quite a few No. 2s and some No. 3s. We did get quite a few calls saying we had red rice, but it appears to be damaged kernels.”

California acreage of 588,000 acres in 2011 “was the third highest in history, and only 5,000 acres short of the record which was set in 1981. Yield was about 8,400 hundredweight per acre, up 5 percent over the previous year. Total production was a little over 49 million hundredweight, the second highest on record.”

Greer noted that the price for California medium-grain rice “has been declining recently. There are reported cash sales of $10.25 to $10.75 in the last few weeks.”

Greer estimates California rice acres of between 550,000 acres and 575,000 acres in 2012.

Arkansas

Arkansas rice producers had their fourth consecutive rain-delayed planting season in 2011, which along with record flooding, contributed to a 35 percent decline in harvested acres, to 1.855 million acres, noted Bobby Coats, Extension economist and professor, University of Arkansas. “We had prevented plantings of 266,000 acres and failed plantings of 38,000 acres.”

Rice yields for 2011  are estimated at 7,000 pounds or 156 bushels per acre. “This is the second highest on record. Arkansas rice production was estimated at 81 million hundredweight, the lowest since 1997.”

Coats also pointed out that Arkansas producers “have now suffered through four straight years of serious, economic production and marketing challenges. This is a truly historic period.”

Louisiana

A major issue for Louisiana rice producers in 2010 included too little fresh water, particularly on the southwest side of the state, and continued problems with salt water intrusion, according to Johnny Saichuk, Extension rice specialist, LSU AgCenter. “We also had too much water in some areas. Producers along the Mississippi River were worried about flooding. And we had problems with heat. I thought 2010 was bad, but 2011 was worse.”

Saichuk noted that producers were able to get rice planted early thanks a very warm March. “We had an abnormally cold April. We set record for cold temperatures into the second week in May. Then in the third week of May, we set record highs. June was okay, July and August were absolutely terrible. We had some fungicide failures and we had some problems with milling quality.

The fungicide failure did confirm sheath blight resistance to strobilurin fungicide. “We’ve never had variation in this fungus before. Rhizoctonia is a fungus that typically reproduces asexually, which means it doesn’t have a lot of variation. We don’t know yet whether this was a spontaneous mutation or whether we have actually had some sexual reproduction. We are looking at a possible Section 18 for another fungicide to address the problem.”

In the absence of rain, rice acreage could decline significantly this coming season in southwest Louisiana, especially in Vermillion Parish, due to the salt water intrusion problem. “Acreage in the northeast part of the state depends on the other crops.”