Mississippi

Lower yields in 2010 due to heat, lower rice prices at harvest and higher corn and soybean prices led to a 50 percent decrease in rice acres in the state in 2011, noted Nathan Buehring, Extension rice specialist, Mississippi State University.

“We typically range between 200,000 acres and 250,000 acres in Mississippi. This was the lowest acreage we have seen since the early 1980s.”

Buehring noted that the rice crop experienced several periods of excessive heat “and bacterial panicle blight was also a problem with the 2011 crop. We had a lot of questions as to whether the problem was actual sterility or bacterial panicle blight.”

Buehring projects a continued decline in rice acres in 2012. “Rice is going to have to be at a premium to some of these other crops, like corn and soybeans. We could be down to levels we haven’t seen since the 1970s. We will probably see an increase in the percentage of hybrid acres.”

Missouri Bootheel

Rice acreage in southeast Missouri declined significantly from the previous year, primarily due to flooding issues, noted Donn Beighley, rice research fellow, Southeast Missouri State University “About April 3, it started raining, and it didn’t stop. The St. Francis and Black rivers both overflowed their banks. We had water knocking on our door at the experiment station.”

Beighley noted that some farmers “flew rice into standing floodwaters, but most of the planting occurred after the first of May. That’s normally when we’re telling our farmers it’s time to stop planting. About 75 percent of the rice planting in the state occurred between May 15 and June 3. Because of the floods, we had more water-seeded rice than normal.”

Yields varied from “short of 140 bushels per acre up to over 210 bushels,” Beighley said. “The average is probably about 150 bushels. We did run into some problems on the later planted rice with high temperatures during pollination. Some of the even later planted rice had better yields because pollination occurred during cooler temperatures, but then we ran into problems trying to get it to mature. As I left to come to this meeting, there was still some rice in the fields. Last week, we had a 4-inch snow on it.”

Beighley estimates rice acres in the Bootheel “might get up to 175,000 acres in 2012.”

Texas

Larry Falconer, Extension economist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M University, said the 2011 season was either the driest year on record, or the driest since 1917, depending on where you were.

While USDA pegged lower yields for Texas this season, it wouldn’t surprise Falconer to see a yield increase from the current yield going into the final estimate. “USDA has total rice production in Texas 6 percent lower than the previous year, but I think it’s going to be closer to a 4 percent reduction.”

Falconer estimates a 15 percent increase in fertility costs and substantial increases in diesel and natural gas prices for the coming year. Both will contribute to an approximate 10 percent increase in total direct expenses.

Given current prices, rice acreage in Texas would normally remain stable to slightly higher in 2012, according to Falconer. However, the availability of surface water will be a significant factor for rice acres in 2012. “Unless something drastic happens, there is going to be a curtailment of water supplies for three rice-producing counties served by the Lower Colorado River Authority. The current system is at 740,000 acre feet at this time. LCRA has announced that if we are below 850,000 acre feet on March 1, there will not be any water made available to the canal systems.”

Falconer said the three counties served by the LCRA make up about 50 percent of the acreage, depending on the year.

“Even under average conditions, it’s unlikely that we could get to water levels where there could be significant water made available for the rice crops. Long story short, we’re looking at curtailments of surface water that could amount to half the acreage in Texas, if not a little over, of the acreage that was planted this year. Unfortunately the curtailments could put our acreage back to levels not seen since 1901. I wish I had better news.”