Days Suitable for Planting Rice in Arkansas

Rice planting can be very stressful during the spring in Arkansas and across the rice belt, as weather greatly affects the timing of planting. Extreme weather events like excessive spring rainfall and cooler-than-average temperatures can reduce the number of days available for planting rice early. Excessive rainfall and flooding events have delayed the timing of rice planting in Arkansas in three of the last four years (2022, 2020, 2019). The years 2019 and 2020 also had the largest and second-largest numbers of rice prevented planting acres on record. Optimum planting dates in Arkansas range from March 28th to May 20th in eastern Arkansas based on the Arkansas Rice Production Handbook. Planting rice outside of these dates can significantly reduce rice yields. A late planting season can also lead to delayed harvest in the fall, where rain and dew could lead to reduced rice kernel quality and additional drying costs associated with the late harvest.

Given these reasons, an analysis of historical weekly Crop Progress and Condition Report data from 1981 to 2022 was undertaken to better understand the number of suitable fieldwork days that have been available for planting the Arkansas rice crop by (USDA-NASS, 2023). We calculated a frequency distribution from these data to determine historical probabilities for the number of suitable fieldwork days per week available during the recommended rice planting window in Arkansas. The results are reported in the attached figure. There is a wide range in the number of days available per week, mainly reflecting extreme weather conditions during the recommended planting window. However, four days per week have the highest percentage of chance occurrence (29% likelihood), followed by five or six days per week (21% likelihood each). The likelihood of having three or fewer days per week to plant rice is 23% (approximately 1 out of four years), while the likelihood of having a whole week to plant the rice crop is 7%. 

The average number of fieldwork days per week during the recommended planting window is 4.5 days.  Rice producers can use this information to estimate the number of days available to complete a rice planting in years when planting has been delayed. For example, if most of a producer’s rice acres have not been planted by the end of April due to weather conditions, the rice producer has roughly three weeks left to complete rice planting within the optimal planting window. Assuming the average of 4.5 suitable fieldwork days over the next three weeks, the rice producer would expect to have approximately 13.5 days available to plant the remaining rice acres. The producer then can decide whether to plant rice or soybeans on the remaining acres based on the economic feasibility. 

References and Resources

University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. 2021. Arkansas Rice Production Handbook.

USDA-NASS. 2023. United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Arkansas Field Office. Crop Progress & Condition Report.

Badarch, Bayarbat, and Brad Watkins. “Days Suitable for Planting Rice in Arkansas.Southern Ag Today 3(14.3). April 3, 2023. Permalink

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