Historically, variety selection has always been the first big decision that is made every year. With the volatile markets over the last few years, crop selection seems to have superseded variety selection as the first major decision. On March 10, it is likely that most planting intentions are in place for the year.

Several questions have been posed over the past month about medium-grain rice production in Mississippi. Mississippi has not traditionally grown much medium-grain rice. However, the potential for a strong price for medium-grain rice exists in 2014 due in part to the drought in California, which has produced a majority of the U.S. medium-grain rice in recent years.

If you plan to grow medium-grain rice in 2014, there are a few things to consider going into the year. First, do you have seed? Jupiter is one of the most popular medium-grain varieties because of its acceptance by buyers and end users. Caffey is a new medium-grain variety that has shown good potential, but there are questions about market acceptance because of the limited acreage grown to date. CL271 is a new Clearfield medium-grain that may be available in limited quantities this year. CL261 is a Clearfield medium-grain that may be available in 2014. Beware of its susceptibility to disease. CL261 is rated susceptible to straighthead, bacterial panicle blight, and narrow brown leaf spot. It should be noted that most rice varieties are susceptible to sheath blight regardless of grain type. Furthermore, leaf blast is not an annual problem in the Midsouth; however, it could be a tremendous concern if a non-regionally adapted rice variety is planted in our environment.

Other questions should be answered before planting medium-grain rice. Do you have a buyer? Also, if a buyer is in place, do you have the ability to identity preserve your medium-grain production? Do you have the bin space to keep the medium-grain separate from the long-grain rice? Are you willing to take time to clean out combines, carts, and trucks to preserve the identity of the medium-grain? In Mississippi, research indicates that management of medium-grain varieties is similar to that of long-grain varieties. Targeted seeding rate should be 30 to 35 seeds per square foot, and nitrogen fertilization rate should be 150 to 180 pounds of N per acre. Herbicide sensitivity is a concern. Older medium-grain varieties like Bengal were generally more susceptible to herbicide injury than long-grain varieties. This is especially true for ALS-inhibiting herbicides like Regiment, which is a popular herbicide in Mississippi rice production. For the last two years, variety tolerance to postemergence applications of Sharpen has been evaluated at the Delta Research and Extension Center. Injury to the medium-grain varieties Caffey and CL261 was slightly higher than long-grain varieties Cheniere and CL151, but this injury did not translate to any reductions in yield.

Information on medium-grain rice production is also available from the LSU AgCenter, here and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture here.