Another Rice Planting Season Will Soon Be Upon Us

Steven Linscombe  |  1/18/2017 4:47:38 PM

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Planting an early March seeding date under cold conditions.

Another Rice Planting Season Will Soon Be Upon Us

Steve Linscombe

LSU AgCenter

Southwest Region/H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station

It is somewhat difficult to believe that we will soon be planting rice again. It seems like a couple of weeks ago that we were harvesting the last of the 2016 crop. Our recommendations are to begin planting rice in southwest Louisiana on March 10 and north Louisiana on April 1. Of course, these are just relative dates and should always be adjusted according to specific weather conditions.

Some years we can plant a little earlier, and other years we need to delay planting until it warms up a bit. Each year we conduct season-long trials that we call our date of planting studies on the rice station. This year we will have 13 varieties and hybrids in this study and try to plant our first date around March 1. We will then plant the same 13 entries in replicated trials every 15 days or so, with our last planting around mid-June. This research provides good information on the best range of planting dates for rice producers in southwest Louisiana.

As you would expect, the absolute best planting date may vary each year because of specific weather conditions. Having conducted this research continuously since 1990, however, has provided us with a good idea of the best window of planting in any given year. Our early March date is normally too early.

Rice normally does not display real good growth and development until the average temperature is around 60 degrees F or above (daily highs in the 70s and nightly lows in the 50s). In most years, we will have some very cool weather in early March, which leads to very poor initial growth on this very early planted rice.

Another major constraint to this very early planting date is depredation by blackbirds. These research plots are normally the first rice planted in southwest Louisiana, and it seems like every blackbird in the state knows exactly when and where these plots are planted. However, since we have AV-1011 available as a seed treatment bird repellent, bird depredation on seeded rice is not the major constraint that it was a few years ago.

Another disadvantage of this very early date is in the effectiveness of herbicides for weed control. Most herbicides do not work well under very cool conditions, which can be a factor when this early planted rice needs an herbicide application.

Based on these long-term studies, our recommended planting dates for rice are March 10 to April 15 in southwest Louisiana. However, rice can be planted somewhat earlier than this based on current weather conditions and short range forecasts. Louisiana rice producers are very experienced and wise when it comes to knowing when to plant. They probably pay more attention to weather forecasts than any group around. If the long-range forecast looks favorable, many southwest farmers will begin planting sometime around March 1.

Since the advent of Clearfield rice, we have many more acres of drill-seeded rice in this region. Drill seeding is dependent on dry soil conditions, so this also factors into early planting decisions. If it is dry enough to get into a field, producers may plant a little early to avoid the potential for extended periods of rain. Also, rice planting must be somewhat spread out so that all fields are not at harvest maturity at one time. Many of our producers will plant a quarter to a third of their acres each week after planting begins, which serves to spread out harvesting to some extent.

Our research also shows that it is best to have rice planted in the southern part of the state by the middle of April. We normally see significant reductions in yield and quality for later planted rice. This is magnified in particular summers when we have extended periods of very high temperatures in July and August. Rice yields are normally negatively affected by these conditions, especially very high nighttime temperatures.

Another very important consideration is the potential for the production of a second (ratoon) crop. Rice harvested by mid-August can be fertilized and reflooded and will produce a second harvestable crop in south Louisiana. This can be very profitable for our rice producers because even though yields are typically lower than those from the first crop, input costs are dramatically lower, and this crop can be quite profitable. In most years, we need to have rice planted by mid-April to have a good chance of producing a successful second crop.

Comparable planting date recommendations for rice in north Louisiana is April 5 to May 1. While we do not conduct date of planting studies in that region, we do have two to three off-station research locations each year that include variety trials. Using correlations of weather information to these trials and many years of practical experience, we feel that these recommendations are valid for that region.

The 2016 rice growing season was extremely challenging for many Louisiana rice producers. Spring rains in north Louisiana destroyed many acres of seeded rice and delayed planting and replanting in that region because of flooded fields. The flood of mid-August in south Louisiana destroyed many acres of rice and significantly reduced yield and quality on those acres that could be harvested after the rains. Coupled with this were the low prices received for the 2016 rice crop. Hopefully 2017 will have more favorable environmental conditions and higher prices to ensure profitable production for all Louisiana rice producers.

This project was partially supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Permission granted January 15, 2017 by B. Leonards (LA Farm & Ranch) to republish article on

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