Arkansas Rice: Sprouting Heads; Rising Water Levels; Harvest Delays

    Growers across Arkansas and Louisiana are reeling after weeklong rains have caused flooding and created a delay for many farmers preparing for harvest. At Florenden Farms in northeast Arkansas, Ryan Sullivan reported that over the course of a week, Mississippi County received more than 7.5 inches of steady rainfall.

    The Mississippi River, bordering Mississippi County to the east, is protected by a levee system so Sullivan reported that he and many others in the area were fortunate to have missed the flooding. However, growers further west of Mississippi County, in areas where rivers back into thousands of acres of farmland, have experienced rising water levels and subsequent flooding that have caused setbacks for many.

    A major concern for some of those who have experienced extreme rainfall the past week is how this is going to affect the quality of the crop. According to Sullivan, “Some growers are experiencing a rare phenomenon in which grains are sprouting from the heads of the rice stalk, creating uncertainty for how this is going to impact the milling process and the quality of the final product.”

    Sullivan reports that although he is not facing this challenge, he and other growers are behind their ideal harvest schedule. On Monday, Sullivan and his father, Mike, began cutting rice, 7-10 days behind schedule. Growers in the area also contend with the impending hurricane season and are eager to harvest as soon as possible to avoid the threat of more severe weather impacting their crop.

    Prior to this past week of severe rainfall, Sullivan reported that northeast Arkansas had been blessed in terms of the weather. “It had been kind of dry the past few months and we had actually been hoping for some rain earlier in the season,” said Sullivan. “We are still optimistic about this year’s crop despite the weather. We have been employing a conservation technique – alternate wetting and drying (AWD) that cuts down on water use without decreasing yield. And this also is the first year we’ve planted row rice, so we’re looking forward to seeing the results of these practices.”

    Ryan Sullivan and his father, Mike, are the operators of Florenden Farms in Mississippi County, farming 5,200 acres of rice and 8,000 acres of soybeans.

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