Rice farmers in Arkansas and other Southern states are racing against Hurricane Isaac, hoping to harvest most of their crop before the storm hits.
Rice farmers, like corn farmers in the Midwest, have been hit hard by the ongoing drought. Like Iowa, Indiana, and other Corn Belt states, Arkansas (responsible for nearly half of all American rice production) has experienced long stretches of severe to extreme drought. While rice is significantly more drought resistant than corn (rice thrives in the heat), the extreme nighttime temperatures have stunted some kernel development. Overall, however, rice growers have done well in the extreme weather.
While rice farmers may have weathered the drought, Isaac may be another story. Heavy rain and strong winds could severely damage rice plants, largely due to their top-heavy nature that makes them particularly vulnerable to wind damage.
The threat posed by the incoming tropical storm is exacerbated by the geography of the region. According to one Arkansas rice farmer,” I’m in river bottom right now; if I don’t get this out today, I may lose it. The wind would blow it down and floods would wash over it”. The storm also comes at a vulnerable time of the year. More than 60 percent of the rice crop is still in the field and farmers have been banking on record production levels to get them through the year, meaning that significant crop losses could wreak havoc among rice producers.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer