Hundreds gather for Rice Field Day in Stuttgart

Hundreds gained new insights into weed control, irrigation technology, precision agriculture and soil health recently at the 2022 Rice Field Day at the Rice Research & Extension Center.

For veteran rice farmer Chris Isbell of Isbell Farms near Humnoke, it was a refreshing change of pace to have the annual field day return as an in-person event for the first time in three years. Isbell said he gets more in-depth information by attending the event in person rather than viewing the presentations by Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers online. The field day was held virtually during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and 2021.

“It’s a long gap, and I’m glad we can somewhat resume our normal lives,” Keith Glover, president and CEO of Producers Rice Mill in Stuttgart, said. “It goes without saying that rice research, especially the research that is done through the check-off program, is so vital and important to our farmers and also to our industry.”

The Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board was established in 1985 to improve the profitability of growing rice in Arkansas by distributing funds raised by the Rice Check-off Program for research, extension, and market development.

Division of Agriculture faculty, staff and students offered in-field presentations on rice breeding, fertility, drone usage, pest management, irrigation and agronomy during the annual event. Over 250 people attended the event.

Glover said experiments conducted by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, have contributed to conservation and land-use efficiencies.

“Fuel usage is down 34%, greenhouse gases are down 41%, water usage is down a whopping 52% … that’s amazing,” Glover said. “And land-use efficiency is up 39%. Those are spectacular numbers and something we can shout about to the general public. That’s not possible without all the people that have been involved over the years in the research, and your check-off dollars are a big part of that.”

Jason Brancel, president and CEO of Riceland Foods, noted that telling the story of advancements in agriculture was important because only about 2 percent of the U.S. population is actively engaged in agriculture.

“If we’re going to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050, we have to make production sustainable,” Brancel said.