Rice planting season has just wrapped up for California growers. Although there was a significant decline in rice acreage planted this year, planting season went off largely without issue. Spokesperson for the California Rice Commission, Jim Morris said the lack of water had a sizable impact on growers’ planting decisions this year.
“It’s important for the crop to be planted by June 1 to get the maximum out of the fields. We are maintaining our estimate of 400,000 planted acres of rice this year. That’s down about 20 percent from a normal crop,” Morris noted. “This is an unfortunate reality of the year that we’ve had with that dry fall and winter.”
Somewhat of a silver lining to the lack of rain was that rice planting season went smoothly. In years that had rainstorms in late spring, growers had problems with muddy conditions and an inability to plant their fields in the normal timeframe. Growers would have appreciated more rainfall over the winter, but aside from the drop in acreage, conditions look promising for the start of the rice-growing season.
“As I drive throughout the rice-growing region, on one hand, you see those unplanted fields and that is difficult to see because you know that would have been very productive land in a regular water year. But it’s also nice to see that the rice was planted in a timely matter,” Morris explained. “So far, things are looking good with the fields that we were able to plant.”
The dry conditions impacting the agricultural industry statewide will have an impact beyond the farm. The decline in rice planting will be felt in a variety of areas. “If you think about approximately 100,000 acres less planting, that impacts the mills. It’s also a financial hit to rural communities in the Sacramento Valley where agriculture is the foundation. There’s also the aspect of wildlife habitat,” said Morris.