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Crossroads rice producers say ratoon crop helps

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 12, 2012 at 4:12 a.m.

Although Floyd Zboril completed the first harvest on his Wharton County rice farm about Sept. 4, he plans to complete a second one in the coming weeks. With his crop, a form of hybrid rice, the new rice grows from the joints between the existing plant.

Did you know

• Nearly 170,000 acres of rice call Texas home.

• The rice industry - production and processing - contributes more than $200 million to the state's economy annually.

• Of the Lone Star State's rice, 98 percent is long grain and 2 percent is medium grain.

Source: "Texas Rice" information sheet by the USA Rice Federation

When it comes to most things ag, a producer has one shot per season to make a healthy crop.

Every rule has its exception, however. And, in this case, it's rice.

Rice is among the few crops that produce ratoon, or second crops, said Brent Batchelor, Texas AgriLife Extension agent for Matagorda County. After the season's initial harvest, he said, a second, smaller one takes place typically in October.

"It's just an added bonus," he said, explaining about 50 to 60 percent of his county's rice acreage comes from second crop. "For the most part, the plant's already there. Take advantage of that opportunity."

Second harvest is all about timing, said Mike Hiller, extension agent for Jackson County.

Although producers typically devote about two-thirds of their planted acreage to a second crop, it depends on when the first harvest came off the field. If it's late coming off, he explained, it's difficult to get plants where they need to be the second time around.

"The days are getting shorter, and you need length in your daylight to get a second crop," Hiller said. "When the days get shorter, it takes longer to get to maturity."

The Zboril family, who farm in Wharton County, planted their rice crop - 850 to 900 acres - in late March, said Frank Zboril III. They finished the first harvest about Sept. 4, he said, and are now waiting for that second crop to develop.

Going after a second harvest isn't always a sure thing, Zboril's brother Floyd Zboril said. He said yields typically come in about one-fifth of what the first harvest brings in, but there are times that a second crop simply doesn't want to come out.

Uncertainty or not, he said it's worth it to try.

Root systems are already established, he explained, so replanting isn't necessary. All it takes is some fertilizer and adequate water, he said, as well as time to let that growth take place.

"You might as well do it," Floyd Zboril said with a smile.

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